A Call From Lal Bahadur Shastri, Order From Jawaharlal Nehru: Virbhadra Singh's Political Journey

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A Call From Lal Bahadur Shastri, Order From Jawaharlal Nehru: Virbhadra Singh's Political Journey

Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections 2017- Virbhadra Singh says he is, at 83, fighting his last election.


Shimla:  Virbhadra Singh says he is, at 83, fighting his last election. He walks with assistance and has a personal physician with him 24 x7. But the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister has indefatigably addressed over 90 rallies for tomorrow's assembly election.

On the last day of campaigning, travelling between rallies in a car because a fund crunch means he cannot afford a chopper, Virbhadra Singh told NDTV that he did not set out to be a politician. A member of a former Royal family - "I was the ruling prince at 11, when my father died," he says - he wanted to be a professor, but was persuaded by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to contest elections 55 years ago.

"I was never interested in politics. At 25 I was asked to drop my aspirations of being a professor and dedicate my life in service of the nation," Mr Singh said. The year was 1962 and Virbhadra Singh got a phone call that would change his life. Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was then a cabinet minister and would later be Prime Minister, was calling.
 
virbhadra singh

Virbhadra Singh says former PM Jawaharlal Nehru pursuaded him to join politics

"Shashtri ji said I had to meet Pandit Nehru. I didn't know what I had done, but I came to Delhi and went to Teen Murti Marg where Indiraji met me and took me to Panditji. He was a clever man, he quizzed me, tested my knowledge with questions about Hinachal Pradesh, about democracy and the next thing I knew I was given a ticket to fight the Lok Sabha election which I won. I was only 25 then," Mr Singh reminicsed.

His son, Vikramaditya is 25 now and is contesting his first election from Shimla Rural. He has been eager to enter politics, Vikramaditya said, unlike his father who he called a "reluctant politician."  
 
virbhadra singh

Virbhadra Singh is a member of a former Royal family

In his first election campaign, Virbhadra Singh or VBS as many call him, recalls, "I used to walk on foot for days, no roads, no bridges, we used cross streams on a plank of wood. I fractured my foot as well and had to be taken on a handmade stretcher of sorts made of bed sheets." People of the state, he says, have given him immense love and affection and "that keeps me going.'

As the chief minister's car passes malls and traffic lights, people stop to bow in respect.  

He wishes politics then wasn't so bitter now, recalling the bonhomie of back then, and blames the BJP.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he says, should not have made personal remarks against him during the campaign, comparing him to the BJP's other Prime MInister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. PM Modi has attacked Virbhadra Sigh over corruption charges that he faces.   

"The PM has been hitting below the belt. Atal Bihari was a statesman, but Modi has no shame or grace. BJP is using vendetta against me. I am not a village man, I come from an illustrious family. They keep saying I am corrupt, I want to tell them I have no reason to be," the chief minister said.

Virbhadra Singh has been chief minister of Himachal Pradesh six times and a union minister before that. He first became chief minister in 1983 and has since 1993, alternated in the post with the BKP's PK Dhumal, who is the rival party's pick for presumptive chief minister this time too.   

"I have enough to fight elections, but nothing to match the kind of money the BJP has thrown into this election, for them money in no limit. But I don't think pahari people are up for sale," Mr Singh says. 

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