By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 8 July 2021
The longest-serving chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, who dominated the political landscape of the state for 60 years, Virbhadra Singh, passed away early Thursday morning. He was 87.
He died at the Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), Shimla, after a cardiac arrest around 3.30am, with his family members beside him.
Singh contracted Covid twice, once on April and then in June, but managed to recover before suffering a heart attack. He had been undergoing treatment in the cardiology department of IGMC since 23 April.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his sadness at the passing of the former Chief Minister. In a tweet, Modi said, “Shri Virbhadra Singh Ji had a long political career, with rich administrative and legislative experience. He played a pivotal role in Himachal Pradesh and served the people of the state. Saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti.”
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama offered his prayers for the departed soul, and in expressing his grief said, “Here in Himachal Pradesh, Shri Virbhadra Singh, our longest serving Chief Minister, will be sorely missed.”
In a letter to Pratibha Singh, the widow of Virbhadra Singh, the Dalai Lama wrote, “Dedicating himself to the service of others, Virbhadra Singh led a long and meaningful life. I admired the way he listened to people’s needs with deep affection and compassion. I am personally grateful for the warm friendship he showed me over the many years we knew each other.
“Historically there have long been close ties between the people of the erstwhile princely state of Bushahr, to which ‘Raja Sahib’ belonged, and their neighbours in western Tibet.”
Commonly known as Raja Sahib for his royal background, Mr Singh leaves behind a rich legacy, spanning a political career of 60 years. The veteran politician had been nine-time MLA and five-time MP, and served as Himachal Pradesh’s chief minister for six terms since 1983.
Born into the royal family of Sarahan in Shimla district in 1934, Singh was anointed king at the age of 13 in 1947. He studied at Bishop Cotton School at Shimla before graduating with honours from St Stephen’s College in Delhi.
He started his political career at the age of 27 when he was elected member of Parliament in 1962, the youngest in the third Lok Sabha. He remained a staunch Congressman all his life.
His wife Pratibha Singh and son Vikramaditya Singh are also politicians. Pratibha is a former MP from Mandi, while Vikramaditya is the sitting MLA from Shimla Rural.