Rahul Gandhi to visit Shimla, pay tributes to Virbhadra Singh at Congress office

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will visit Shimla on Friday to pay tributes to veteran party leader and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

The veteran Congress leader breathed his last in Shimla earlier today.

Rahul Gandhi will visit Congress Himachal Pradesh unit office–Rajiv Bhawan at 12:30 pm on Friday, party leader Rajeev Shukla said.

Paying his tributes in a tweet, Gandhi said Virbhadra Singh was “a stalwart in the true sense”.

“His commitment to serving the people and to the Congress party remained exemplary till the very end. My condolences to his family and friends. We will miss him,” Gandhi said.

Virbhadra Singh passed away earlier this morning at Shimla’s Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital. He had post-COVID issues like pneumonia and also had diabetes and other health issues, the hospital said.

Singh was a nine-time MLA, a five-time member of Parliament and served as Himachal Pradesh’s Chief Minister for six terms. He was 87.

A staunch Congressman, Singh was also among the party’s most experienced leaders who had worked with all Prime Ministers from the party beginning with Jawaharlal Nehru. He began his legislative innings when he was elected a member of Parliament in 1962.

Affable and approachable, he was fondly called ‘Raja Sahib’ by his admirers. Singh was devoted to Himachal Pradesh and remained the tallest leader of Congress in the state till his last. Singh liked to be in the thick of politics and was a sitting MLA.

He overcame several political challenges in his long innings, sometimes for leadership from within his own party, and emerged triumphant with his strong will, political sagacity, astuteness, wit and charm.

His critics accused him of not fostering the second line of Congress leadership in the state, of being “inflexible” and of keeping a tight grip on the party.

Singh was Deputy Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation at the Centre between 1976 and 1977 and held some other portfolios during his other ministerial stints. He also held organisational posts in the state Congress.

Singh became chief minister for the first time in 1983. As chief minister, he displayed administrative acumen and worked to take the state higher in development rankings.

Born into the royal family of Sarahan in Shimla district, Singh studied at Bishop Cotton School at Shimla and St Stephen’s College in Delhi.

Himachal Pradesh has seen alternate governments of BJP and Congress from the early nineties and Singh’s political fortunes also swayed accordingly.

Singh also faced corruption allegations later in his political career and faced a case for owning assets disproportionate to his known sources of income during his stint as union minister from 2009.

His death is being seen as a big loss to the state Congress as there is apparently no other leader at present to match his popularity and stature.

Virbhadra Singh won elections from different assembly constituencies and was elected to assembly in 2017 from Arki. His son Vikramaditya Singh is MLA from Shimla Rural. (ANI)

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