Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who turned 82 on Thursday, made it emphatically clear that he was neither retiring from electoral politics nor taking a back seat in the run-up to the 2017 state Assembly polls.
Amid a huge turnout of supporters, ministers, legislators and loyalists at ‘Oak-Over’, the CM’s official residence, Virbhadra also sent out a strong message to the party, saying: “While I can say that I have never thought about quitting the Congress, and will not contemplate it even in the future… I also want to say that the party should not take me for granted.”
He also ruled out the possibility of an early election in the state. “The elections in the state will be held as per schedule,” the CM said, adding that even if they were held today, the BJP would be defeated badly.
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Asked if he was pitching for a seventh term as CM, Virbhadra Singh said: “I have enjoyed a lot of affection from the people, mainly the poor sections. If the people give me a chance to serve them, I will not back out…Whether I myself enter the electoral fray or make others contest the polls…I am sure about playing a dominant role. If the party wants me to lead the party I as did in 2012, despite being in the central politics, I will not desist.”
Virbhadra said that he had been touring every part of the state as he wanted to remain connected with the people and give them his best . “There is still a lot to do and everyday is important. Himachal Pradesh has made steady progress in the field of education, health, agriculture, horticulture, power, roads and social infrastructure. Today, Himachal Pradesh’s development chart is better than several bigger states, but there is more to achieve,” he added.
Asked how the Congress planned to revive itself after recent setbacks, Virbhadra said: “The party needs corrections and this should happen from the top. The BJP won the Lok Sabha polls not because of its popularity but due to the weakness of the Congress and those (weaknesses) should be fixed.”