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Shanta cool at ‘abrupt’ retirement

The octogenarian has traversed a political journey of over five-and-a-half decades without any compromises, starting from a ward panch to become the first non-Congress chief minister of Himachal Pradesh in 1977 when Janata Party government came into power.

Archana Phull | Palampur |

Senior most Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader in Himachal Pradesh and sitting Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Kangra, Shanta Kumar, 84, may have been made to retire from electoral politics in 2019, but that’s not the end of the road for him.

Unlike other BJP seniors, Shanta took it easy when the party decided last month that he will not contest the polls. He instead got busy to accomplish other plans outside the political field which he could not materialise earlier for want of time.

Two-time former Chief Minister of Himachal and former Union minister, Shanta Kumar may have his opinion about “retirement age” as well but is apparently “cool” at this abrupt retirement.

“Goodbye electoral politics. I am celebrating. I express like a writer now. I had started writing my memoirs earlier but could not complete. It’s time to write autobiography and work on my plan to build a senior citizen home here,” Shanta told The Statesman at his residence in home town Palampur.

He said that he is planning to build a senior citizen home on the model of “Pay and Stay” and was trying to manage funds for that in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). “It will also have the concept of free accommodation for most deserving poor people. We will also go for donations for this project. We will make it a perfect place to live,” Shanta said.

“Yes, he is different than others and has done politics on his own terms. When Janata Party government in Himachal was toppled in 1980 and Congress formed government under the leadership of Thakur Ram Lal, Shanta Kumar resigned as Chief Minister and went to watch the movie ‘Jugnu’,” remarked an old Shanta loyalist, former minister, Mahender Sohfat.

The former Union minister had won from Kangra Lok Sabha seat in 2014 by a record margin of 1.70 lakh. Sources said he had told the party leadership about his plans to retire from electoral politics in 2019.

However, with the party feeling shaky in between, Shanta was sent feelers a few months ago that he will have to contest. The core committee of state BJP also recommended his name for a ticket in the presence of party in-charge Mangal Pandey and poll observer TS Rawat. This prepared Shanta to contest the Lok Sabha poll.

BJP insiders said it was only after the Parliamentary Board meeting that Shanta was asked to opt out of the race by declaring it publically. For this, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti drove to this home in Delhi to make him say that he will not contest.

The very next day, the party announced the candidature of Kishan Kapoor (Food and Civil Supplies minister in Himachal).

“I am campaigning for the party now and will visit different areas as per schedule,” said Shanta.

The octogenarian has traversed a political journey of over five-and-a-half decades without any compromises, starting from a ward panch to become the first non-Congress chief minister of Himachal Pradesh in 1977 when Janata Party government came into power.

He was elected as MLA and Lok Sabha MP four times each and was a Rajya Sabha MP once. Right from bringing the concept of hand pumps in the state to getting the state’s demand of 12 per cent free power from hydropower projects in Himachal approved from the centre, the former two-time CM is known for his visionary policies in the larger interest of the state.