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Newsmaker: At centre of Himachal Rajya Sabha storm is a ‘gentleman’ leader — and a Virbhadra Singh loyalist | Political Pulse News


The BJP’s Harsh Mahajan, 68, who pulled off a major upset to win the lone vacant Himachal Pradesh Rajya Sabha seat on Tuesday, defeating Congress heavyweight Abhishek Manu Singhvi, picked up the political ropes from his father Des Raj Mahajan, a former Vidhan Sabha Speaker and Congress minister.

Having spent over four decades in the Congress, it was in September 2022 that Harsh Mahajan had joined the BJP. The Congress working president at the time said he was quitting, as the Congress had become “visionless, directionless and leaderless”.

Mahajan started his political journey after being handpicked by Rajiv Gandhi as the Himachal Youth Congress president, and honed his skills under the guidance of six-time Chief Minister and late Congress stalwart Virbhadra Singh. He remained the state Youth Congress chief for around a decade, during which time he also grew close to another party bigwig from the state, the late Sukh Ram.

Mahajan first won the Chamba seat to become an MLA in 1993, defeating Kishori Lal of the BJP. His younger sister Devi Cherian, the noted social activist and columnist who is married to Dilip Cherian, the founder of prominent PR firm Perfect Relations, says the win was significant as Kishori Lal was “known more or less as the king of Sangh politics in Himachal Pradesh”.

Mahajan went on to win the seat both in 1998 and 2003, and served as a Cabinet minister in-charge of the portfolios of Housing and Urban Development, and Animal Husbandry. Devi Cherian says that having worked as a “strategist” with mentor Virbhadra Singh, Mahajan “knows every nook and cranny of Himachal Pradesh”, and is valued for his honesty and administrative skills.

Festive offer

Incidentally, a day after Mahajan’s surprise win, senior Congress leader and Virbhadra’s son Vikramaditya quit his ministerial post in the Sukhvinder Sukhu government, which has now been left wobbly after the Rajya Sabha voting.

Janak Raj, the BJP MLA from Bharmour in Chamba, called Mahajan “a legend”. “His election to the Rajya Sabha will immensely help the aspirations of Chamba district, as he will raise its issues in the Upper House of Parliament. He did the same in his capacity as a three-time MLA and Cabinet minister while he was in the Congress.”

BJP MLA from Kangra Pawan Kumar Kajal called Mahajan “a true gentleman who has worked diligently in whatever positions he has held”.

Even a veteran Congress leader, wishing not to be named, admitted he had little negative to say about Mahajan. He recollected how in the party organisation, Mahajan once worked under him as the party’s state general secretary. “He and his family were dyed-in-the-wool Congressmen before he switched over to the BJP in 2022.”

While Mahajan’s daughter is a documentary filmmaker in Mumbai, the son looks after the family orchards in Shimla.





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