CM Sukhvinder Sukhu: Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadrawere are in Shimla today to witness the swearing in of new Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and his deputy Mukesh Agnihotri.
Right after the newly elected leaders were sworn-in, a garlanded picture of late Virbhadra Singh, former royal and six-time Chief Minister of the hill state, was displayed and all leaders folded their hands in respect. On Sunday, Mallikarjun Kharge also accompanied the Gandhis to the big event at Ridge Maidan in Shimla.
On stage, Rahul Gandhi hugged Pratibha Singh, wife of late Virbhadra Singh. In a subtle yet stern reminder to the party high command, Ms Singh also staked claim to the top spot.
The elections were fought and won in honor of her husband Virbhadra Singh, who died last year, and sidelining his family would be “a disaster.” However, she does not enjoy popular support among the grand old party’s newly-elected 40 MLAs.
Gandhis’ gesture is an olive branch to Pratibha Singh’s disgruntled supporters, who mobbed the hotel where party observers were staying and raised slogans in her favor. Before the party’s crucial meeting, they even stopped the car of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, one of the central observers.
As a balancing act to assuage egos, the Congress appointed Mukesh Agnihotri, the leader of the opposition in the outgoing Himachal Pradesh assembly, as the first Deputy Chief Minister. Agnihotri is Virbhadra Singh’s protege, and Pratibha Singh reportedly lobbied for him to be made Chief Minister after she was ruled out herself.
Priyanka Gandhi has won her first election as general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). Earlier this year, she spearheaded the canvassing in Uttar Pradesh, where the party lost.
In the recent state elections, Congress’ campaign committee was headed by Mr Sukhu, MLA from Nadaun in Hamirpur district.
In spite of intense lobbying by Pratibha Singh, wife of the late Virbhadra Singh and former Chief Minister, the Congress high command chose Sukhvinder Sukhu for the top post.
He graduated from the Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Mr Sukhu was a four-time member of the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly.
Despite winning 40 out of the 68 assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh, Congress candidates had a victory margin of less than 2,000 in 15 of them. In spite of the fact that the Congress and the BJP got 40 and 25 seats, respectively, there was only a 0.90 percent difference in the vote share.
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