Sukh Ram represented the Mandi Assembly seat from 1962 to 1984 (Image courtesy: Twitter/@kcvenugopalmp)
An astute veteran politician, Congress’s Brahmin face and man credited with telecom revolution in Himachal Pradesh, Sukh Ram, 95, died this morning at AIIMS New Delhi, where he was admitted following a brain stroke at his home in Mandi, last week.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had provided a government chopper to airlift him to Delhi–a gesture which earned hearts of the family, though currently in the Congress
Sukh Ram’s grandson Aashray Sharma took to social media to announce the demise of veteran Congress politician. He wrote "Good bye, grandfather, Now the phone will not ring (Alvida Dadajee, Ab Nahin Bajegee Phone Ki Ghanti)."
With him also goes a strong legacy of the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as he was the only surviving politician having worked closely with late Indira Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao and Rajiv Gandhi as a union minister.
But, changing political sides towards the end of his political career did harm him and family considerably.
Though, he also faced CBI raids in telecom scam relating to his tenure as union minister was arrested and lodged in Tihar Jail after his arrest but immediately after his release from the jail, he bounced back to politics. He formed his own political outfit –Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC) to contest state assembly poll in 1998.
For this, he joined hands with the BJP and also was inducted as cabinet minister in the BJP-HVC coalition under Dhumal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was party incharge in Himachal Pradesh played a great role in bringing Sukh Ram closer to the BJP at the time when Atal Bihari Vajpayee had become Prime Minister heading the NDA government. Even though questions were raised at BJP compromising with trained politician but that did not come in the way to run a BJP-led government in Himachal Pradesh .
Sukh Ram‘s political career had an interesting yet strange coincidence that speaks volumes about his phenomenal rise and fall on the political horizon of the country ,and also Himachal Pradesh. He represented the Mandi Assembly seat from 1962 to 1984.
His desire to become Chief Minister could not be fulfilled because of the strong mass base of his Congress rival Virbhadra Singh. He came close to the Chief Ministerial dream in 1993 when he was telecom minister in the Narasimha Rao cabinet.
Virbhadra Singh pulled the rags from under his feet and became Chief Minister
He became instrumental in formation of states’ first coalition government with his party –Himachal Vikas Congress. Prem Kumar Dhumal became Chief Minister and the BJP government lasted its full term though Sukh Ram later merged his party back with the Congress and helped party’s victory in Mandi Lok Sabha poll with Pratibha Singh, Virbhadra Singh’s wife as candidate.
Born in Mandi on July 27, 1927, in an ordinary Brahmin family, Sukh Ram had served as secretary in the Municipality Mandi in 1953. After this, contested and won the independent elections from Mandi Sadar in 1962 making a beginning of a political inning in the state to counter established leaders like Karam Singh in home district .
In 1967, he got the ticket of Congress party and reached the assembly after winning the re-election. After this, Sukh Ram never looked back. He contested 13 times from Mandi Sadar Assembly Constituency and won. He never lost any assembly poll as such was his influence in the area.
He remained a cabinet minister in Himachal Pradesh with late Ram Lal Thakur .
As Rajiv Gandhi wanted him to play a role in national politics, Sukh Ram was fielded from the Mandi Lok Sabha – a seat he also won for the first time in 1984.
However, in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections, he had to face defeat from Maheshwar Singh of the BJP when NDA swept the polls. Yet in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections, Sukh Ram again entered the Parliament by defeating Maheshwar Singh.
In 1996, Sukh Ram again won the election and reached the Lok Sabha.
However, this was the time when his fate took a turn. The CBI booked him in the telecom and disproportionate assets case, raided his premises in Delhi and Mandi and recovered cash stashed at his residences.
He was expelled from the Congress party but soon he formed his own party contested the assembly elections in the entire state and won five seats.
Sukh Ram contested his last assembly election in 2003 and then in 2007, he retired from active politics and backed his son Anil Sharma.
Irked by the Congress, especially Virbhadra Singh, his son quit the minister’s post and joined the BJP ahead of 2017 alleging his humiliation and also that of his father. Anil Sharma won the election and joined the Cabinet under Jai Ram Thakur, incumbent Chief Minister.
However, Sukh Ram took a new turn and joined the Congress along with his grandson Aashray Sharma in 2019 to contest Lok Sabha elections as a Congress candidate. Sukhram's grandson tried hard for a ticket from the Congress but lost badly.
This, however, made Anil Sharma sacrifice his cabinet position.
Anil Sharma‘s other son Ayush Sharma – a Bollywood actor has married Salman Khan’s sister Arpita.
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