Himachal Congress leader and state minister Vikramaditya Singh lost the high-profile Mandi Lok Sabha battle to actor Kangana Ranaut by 74,755 votes. In an interview with The Indian Express, Singh talks about his loss from Mandi — a seat that his parents, the late former CM Virbhadra Singh, and state Congress chief Pratibha Singh have represented before — why he thinks it will stand him in good stead, Kangana Ranaut, and why he contested despite reluctance.

Q) How big a setback is your loss in Mandi?

It is a humbling experience that will help me in the long term. I am a fighter who does not run away from the battlefield. Winning and losing is part of the game and I lost even though our vote share increased manifold. In 2019, when the turnout was 73.6%, the Congress candidate lost by 4.05 lakh votes. Even my mother Pratibha Singh won the 2021 by-election, when the voter turnout was 57.98%, by 8,766 votes. This time, I got 47.12% of the votes (margin was 74,755 votes). This defeat is not a setback. I am only 34 years old and have to go a long way. Even my parents, the respected Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh, also faced defeats from this seat but they also won three times each. Also, I will fulfill all my commitments made to the people of Mandi during my campaign in my capacity as the state PWD and Urban Development Minister.

Q) Do you have a message for Kangana Ranaut?

Winning the election is one thing but being there 24×7 is another. Now that she is elected, she has to give time there. How much time she dedicates to Mandi will be important. But time will tell because she has many commitments as an actress and celebrity. I congratulated her through the media. I am yet to wish her personally.

Q) How was your campaign different from the Congress line? Given that one of your campaign slogans was “Vikramaditya ji ki Jai Shri Ram”.

Festive offer

I have not given up the Congress ideology. Since Day 1, I said I went to attend the Ram Temple consecration ceremony and highlighted my late father’s contribution towards it. What we followed during the campaign was not a campaigning style, but the feeling of around 97% of Himachal’s people who follow dev samaj (eternal culture). I believe I benefited from this. Jai Shri Ram and Hindutva are not the BJP’s trademarks.

Q) There were moments when it appeared that you were hitting each other below the belt, such as when, on the issue of beef, you called for Kangana’s shuddhikaran (purification).

The issue of my opponent having consumed beef was something she herself once accepted. Shuddhikaran is mentioned in our scriptures. I don’t know what she thinks, but I never crossed the lakhsman rekha (boundary) throughout the campaign. I gave her full respect.

Q) What is your assessment of your loss?

I take responsibility for my defeat. But yes, the party also matters. The Lok Sabha and Assembly polls are fought on different issues. CM Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu and Deputy CM Mukesh Agnihotri gave a lot of their time to my campaign. Even senior leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held two rallies and roadshows. They did their best even when they also had to dedicate time to the state bypolls, which are necessary for the state government’s stability.

Former CM Jairam Thakur made this seat a prestige issue. He gave it a regional color with slogans such as “Mandi ki Beti” etc. In the last few days, the visits of PM Narendra Modi, CM Yogi Adityanath, and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari helped the BJP. I had to deal with these single-handedly.

Q) Sukhu has said you were not ready to contest from Mandi, that he had urged you to accept…

I have already said on various platforms that I neither demanded the ticket nor was I interested in contesting. The decision was taken by our party’s national general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and senior leader Sonia Gandhi, who told me to contest from Mandi. Indeed, the CM also urged me to contest. They reposed their faith in me.

Q) Were you reluctant because you did not want to give up your MLA-ship?

The people of the Shimla (Rural) gave me certain responsibility. I have to fulfill those. This was the only thought in my mind when I expressed reluctance.