Having won Himachal Pradesh, the Congress has called a meeting of its MLAs today to choose a Chief Minister. The Congress has at least four candidates to choose from.
At 3 pm, the meeting will take place at the Radisson hotel in Shimla.
Pratibha Singh, the wife of Virbhadra Singh, who was the party’s tallest leader in the hill state until his death last year, is the frontrunner.
An ex-royal family member, Pratibha Singh is a Lok Sabha MP from Mandi. Although she did not contest the election, she effectively led the Congress campaign. Congress MLAs loyal to her husband, Virbhadra Singh, who led the party in Himachal Pradesh for over three decades, support her.
“I want Pratibha ji to be given a big responsibility as a son,” Vikramaditya Singh, who contested the election and won from rural Shimla, told NDTV yesterday. Besides being a son, I am also a responsible leader of the party. Whatever the party decides will be respected. “I’m sure the party will keep the people’s wishes in mind.”
As he said: “We must follow the path shown by Virbhadra ji. We will follow the Virbhadra Singh vikas model. He must be smiling today in heaven.”
The party feared BJP’s “Operation Lotus” – coded as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party getting MLAs to switch loyalties to overthrow opposition governments – because there are three other candidates besides her – former state chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, Mukesh Agnihotri, the Congress legislature party leader in the outgoing assembly, and Harshwardhan Chauhan.
As a result of his strong representation of the party’s position in the state legislature, Mukesh Agnihotri believes that he deserves the top job.
Other names are also in the running. In the last few years, Kuldeep Singh Rathore claims to have brought the deeply divided Congress party together.
Just a few months ago, Mr Rathore was replaced as chief by Pratibha Singh.
According to reports, several Congress leaders contested the election in hopes of becoming chief minister. While campaigning in their districts, they even used this.
BJP leaders, such as Union Home Minister Amit Shah, had derided the Congress’ abundance of “Chief Ministers.”
In order to prevent the race from becoming bitter, Congress leaders considered moving the newly elected Himachal MLAs to Chandigarh or Raipur. After the party won a clear majority, that plan has been shelved.
A majority of 40 seats have been won by the Congress, five more than the BJP’s 25. BJP poaching attempts are unlikely to succeed, according to the Congress.
The meeting in Shimla will be attended by Rajeev Shukla, Congress in-charge for Himachal, Bhupesh Baghel and senior leader Bhupinder Hooda.
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