Sukh Ram (94), one of the tallest Congress leaders of Himachal, fought adversity with grit during his political career spanning over five decades. He displayed the ability to bounce back even in the most difficult times after his own party disowned him.
Known to one and all as Panditji, Sukh Ram dominated the political spectrum of the state for a long time. He emerged as a very powerful leader at the Centre when PV Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister. An astute politician, who was magnanimous to not just his own party men but to all, Sukh Ram commanded a lot of respect. He is credited with revolutionising telecom services in the state as the Union Telecommunication Minister from 1993 to 1996.
Sukh Ram suffered a cardiac arrest and breathed his last at AIIMS, New Delhi, yesterday. He was shifted to AIIMS after he suffered a stroke at Manali on May 6. The Congress has lost two of its tallest leaders, Virbhadra Singh and Sukh Ram, in less than a year.
Sukh Ram was close to becoming the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh in 1983 but lost the race to his archrival Virbhadra Singh as a majority of legislators threw their weight behind the ‘Raja’. Throughout their careers, Sukh Ram and Virbhadra Singh remained political adversaries.
Sukh Ram braved the most turbulent phase of his political career when the Congress expelled him after the telecom scam in 1996. He then floated a political outfit, Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC), before the 1998 Assembly elections in Himachal. In a state that is known to provide little space to a third political force, the HVC managed to win five seats and keep the Congress out of power. The HVC extended support to Prem Kumar Dhumal-led BJP government and shared power as a coalition partner. He eventually merged his party with the Congress in 2004.
Sukh Ram battled legal cases, and was awarded a five-year sentence in the telecom scam in 2011. Even during the difficult phase when he was jailed, his fighting spirit did not diminish.
Sukh Ram’s son Anil Sharma made his political debut when the HVC was floated. Anil is the present BJP legislator from Mandi Sadar. His grandson Ashray Sharma unsuccessfully contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Mandi. Sukh Ram along with his son and grandson had joined the BJP in 2017.
Brought telecom revolution in HP
Known to one and all as Panditji, Sukh Ram dominated the political spectrum of HP for a long time. He is credited with turning around the telecom sector in HP while being Union Telecommunication Minister in 1993-96