New Delhi: Former Union Minister Virbhadra Singh, who resigned from the Union Cabinet after charges were framed against him in a corruption case, has been made the Chairman of Congress' campaign committee for Himachal Pradesh ahead of the Assembly polls there.

Singh, a five time Chief Minister, had earlier said that his resignation should not be seen as an admission of guilt as he was going to fight the case to its logical conclusion and sought to turn it into a political battle against the ruling BJP ahead of elections to the 68-member state Assembly later this year.

AICC general secretary in-charge for the state Chaudhary Birender Singh said, "Virbhadra Singh has been appointed as Chairman of the Campaign Committee. Congress will campaign in the state unitedly."

Singh was earlier made a member in the Manifesto Committee of the party chaired by his bete noire Anand Sharma. There were reports that Singh had put his foot down refusing to work as a member in the Committee chaired by Sharma. That was before he resigned as Union Minister on June 26.

Singh is a veteran leader from Himachal Pradesh and there are indications that the party would be seeking to turn the crisis over his resignation into an opportunity by fielding him from the front in the state elections.

Party leaders, however, were guarded in their response on whether Singh is being projected as the party's Chief Ministerial face in Himachal Pradesh.

While Chaudhary merely said the next Chief Minister will be decided by the elected MLAs and party President Sonia Gandhi, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari asked "not to read between the lines".

"We should refrain from indulging in speculation. At present he is the Chairman of the Election Campaign Committee and that is where it stands now. I do not think there is any reason to read in between the lines or down the lines. Just read the lines," Tewari said at the AICC briefing.

Tewari, however, significantly recalled that party general secretary and media department in-charge Janardan Dwivedi had made it clear that the court ordering framing of charges aginst him in the case does mean that Singh is guilty.

"Criminal law is the same for everybody. Mere filing of charge sheet does not make anybody guilty. Veerbhadra ji in his wisdom decided to quit as minister. And one has to discharge many responsibilities as a party leader.

"He has been Chief Minister five times and a senior leader of Himachal Pradesh. The party has in its wisdom decided to appoint him for a post," Tewari said.

However, AICC leaders speaking on condition of anonymity admitted that Singh had a pan state appeal and he had to be projected if Congress had to come to power in the state.

A senior AICC functionary also maintained that the case against Singh will not stand in higher courts and he will come out clean.

On the day Singh resigned, Dwivedi had said, "We hope that he will come out clean and free from the charges and face his adversaries in Himachal Pradesh successfully."


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