Shimla, Jun 23 - With Himachal Pradesh set to go for Assembly elections later this year, Congress leader and union minister Virbhadra Singh today said the party should announce its chief ministerial candidate in advance to give a choice to the people against BJP.
"Though it is the convention of Congress not to announce the name of chief ministerial candidate in advance...but in the given situation it will be better if the party declares its nominee for the top post in the hill state in advance to give a clear-cut choice to people against the BJP regime," Singh, who turned 77 today, told reporters here.
Asked if he was a hopeful for the post, Singh, a five- time chief minister of HP, said he would perform whatever responsibility the high command entrusts him.
"I have been a dedicated soldier of Congress for the past 50 years...I will perform whatever responsibility the party high command entrust me," the Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises said.
There had been discontentment in a section of Congress leaders in the hill state after the party appointed Union Industries and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma as chairman of manifesto committee for HP and Singh only a member.
Sharma, who has served as RS member from HP before moving to Rajasthan, is considered a rival to Singh in HP politics.
Singh said despite his advance age he was fit enough to do running to bring Congress back to power in the Himalayan state.
"Despite completing 77, I am still medically fit and can walk miles to bring Congress back to power in HP," he said.
The veteran Congress leader had entered Lok Sabha for the first time in 1962 from Mahasu constituency when HP was part of Punjab. There is no other leader in the present Lok Sabha to have entered in the lower House before him.
Singh, who represents Mandi seat in the Lok Sabha, had been elected to Parliament six times. He has also been a member of Himachal Assembly for seven times.
Meanwhile, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal telephoned Singh to congratulate him on his birthday.
Streams of people visited his residence since morning to greet him on the occasion. His supporters also organised a rally in Shimla to celebrate his birthday and completion of 50 years in active politics.
Hitting out at Dhumal, Singh said by denying permission to hold the rally at historic Ridge maidan, the CM has showed his "narrow mindedness".
The state was going from "bad to worse" under the BJP rule, which he alleged was patronising corruption and providing land to companies and private universities at a throwaway prices. People of the state are "fed up" with the present BJP rule and Congress has "good opportunity" to come back to the power to carry forward the work left by it in 2007 when BJP came to power, he said. PTI