Lok Sabha polls: Former rivals Virbhadra Singh and Sukh Ram share stage in Mandi

Kavita Upadhyay
Former Union minister Sukh Ram Sharma addressing the gathering during the election campaign rally for his grandson and Congress candidate Ashray Sharma at Mandi on Thursday. (Express Photo by Pradeep Kumar)

Former Union minister Sukh Ram shared the stage with his ex-political rival and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh at Mandi Thursday to campaign for the former’s grandson and Congress candidate for the Mandi Lok Sabha seat Aashray Sharma, who filed his candidature on the same day.

Virbhadra and Sukh Ram had seemingly buried their differences ahead of the upcoming polls. Coming together of the two senior leaders have strengthened the Congress in the state, which has been trying to portray a united face to challenge the BJP which had won all four Lok Sabha seats in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

During his speech, 93-year-old Sukh Ram said that he had recently met Virbhadra in Delhi and had apologised to him. "I asked him (Virbhadra) for forgiveness for any mistakes that I might have committed in the past," he said and broke into tears, following which Aashray, who stood beside Sukh Ram, also broke into tears.

Sukh Ram further lauded Virbhadra, saying that "Virbhadra ji took Himachal Pradesh on the path of development".

In his speech, Virbhadra said that "forgetting past differences" everyone "must unite to ensure" Aashray's victory in Mandi.

Anil Sharma absent

Aashray's father Anil Sharma, who is the BJP MLA from Mandi state Assembly seat, has refrained from campaigning for Aashray. While Anil recently resigned from the post of Power Minister in the Jai Ram Thakur government, he has not yet resigned from the BJP and continues to be the Mandi MLA. Aashray’s candidature has put Anil in a soup, who is neither seeking support for the Congress nor for the BJP in Mandi.

While mentioning Anil's absence, Sukh Ram broke into tears. Aashray, who might have felt his father's absence on an important day, also cried along with his grandfather.

Aashray, in his speech, targeted BJP candidate Ram Swaroop Sharma and said that in the past five years, Sharma "did nothing for the development of Mandi".

Aashray's younger brother and Bollywood actor Aayush Sharma, who was also present during the public address, was seen garnering support for Aashray.

"You have always showered immense love on our family... I am sure no one is a better candidate for Mandi (than Aashray)," Aayush said.