The coronation saga in Himachal Pradesh has taken a new turn with state assembly president Pratibha Singh dropping out of the race for chief minister, sources said. Her supporters surrounded the hotel where the party’s central observers were staying and held up slogans in support of her. Yesterday, they even stopped the car of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagar, one of the central watchers, ahead of the party’s important meeting, and expressed their support for Pratibha Singh.
Pratibha Singh laid out her claim for the post in a stark reminder to Delhi’s leadership just hours before a crucial meeting of Congress to decide on its chief minister yesterday . She said it would be “a disaster” to have his family out after the election was held and won in the name of her husband, who died last year, Virbhadra Singh.
She didn’t enjoy popular support among the grand new 40 MLAs, which is why she was pulled from the competition, sources said.
Former governor Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu reportedly has the support of more than 25 MLAs and is now the favorite for the top job. Mukesh Agnihotri, the outgoing leader of the Legislative Party in Congress, is also running.
Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu is a third time MLA from Nadaun, Hamirpur district. He is a lawyer by training and has emerged from the ranks of the National Congress Party’s National Student Union (NSUI).
Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu is of a very different origin from former royal family Virbhadra Singh, as an activist at Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla, he headed the NSUI state department in the late 1980s. After graduating and embarking on a full-time political career, he served as president of the state youth assembly in the 2000s.
Mukesh Agnihotri has won his fifth parliamentary election since turning from journalism to politics almost 20 years ago. He hasn’t said anything yet. He was considered a protégé of the “royalty”, especially Virbhadra Singh, but he grew to have ambitions of his own.
Former chief minister Virbhadra Singh was the top leader of the Himachal Pradesh Congress party until his death last year.
Pratibha Singh was elected Lok Sabha MP from his constituency, Mandi. She did not contest the state elections but her son Vikramaditya Singh did.
Pratibha Singh has said: “There will be many claims for the post of Chief Minister and the decision of the High Command is final but Virbhadra’s legacy cannot be ignored.”
Top Congress leaders met with newly elected Congress MLAs in Shimla yesterday to gauge who enjoys popular support, and devise a strategy to keep the flock together in the hill state, where factionalism is rife.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will make the final decision on who will be the state’s chief minister, the source said, with the party leader’s victory in polls in the Himachal Pradesh assembly. Praise for winning. Announcement will be made at 4pm. It comes after a day of culmination in the Hill state, with rival factions vying for the top job.