Sukh Ram to stay away from Himachal poll campaign

April 19th, 2009 - 9:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Shimla, April 19 (IANS) Former union minister Sukh Ram, whom a Delhi court recently found guilty in a 13-year-old disproportionate assets case, Sunday said he would stay from the election campaign in Himachal Pradesh.
“I am preoccupied with my case (disproportionate assets) so I would stay away from the Lok Sabha elections,” Sukh Ram told IANS by phone.

“I have no time to campaign even in my constituency (Mandi in Himachal Pradesh)… I am busy in consulting lawyers to file appeal against the conviction. My priorities are fighting legal case (not elections),” he said.

Sukh Ram had to resign as the central telecommunications minister in the wake of a financial scandal involving purchase of equipment from a Hyderabad-based private firm.

Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge V.K. Maheshwari found Sukh Ram guilty in February this year of having amassed Rs.42.5 million of disproportionate assets that included Rs.24.5 million seized from his residence in New Delhi.

The 82-year-old former minister belongs to Mandi town and commands influence in the area.

Political analysts feel that the Congress is likely to face a tough challenge from the the Bharatiya Janata Party if Sukh Ram does not come out openly in its support.

“The conviction of Sukh Ram will matter. We (the BJP) will ask ‘Panditji’ (as Sukh Ram is popularly known) to name the Congress leaders who he often says had conspired to frame him,” Chief Minister and BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal said.

State Congress chief Kaul Singh Thakur said: “I have no information (regarding the decision of Sukh Ram not to campaign during the polls). He (Sukh Ram) is our party man, he will join campaigning when we will request him.”

Five-term Congress chief minister Virbhadra Singh is pitted against the BJP’s three-time MP Maheshwar Singh in Mandi.

The hill state has four Lok Sabha seats - Shimla (Scheduled Castes), Kangra, Mandi and Hamirpur - and the polls will be held May 13.

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