The Congress party won the Himachal Pradesh election with a comfortable majority of 40 seats in the 68-seat Legislative Assembly, however the grand old party has not managed to come to a decision on who the state chief minister will be. A number of names are doing the rounds, and the leaders seem to be jostling each other for the top post.
What happened on Friday? A meeting of the newly elected MLAs was held at the party office in Shimla on Friday, 9 December, to choose the chief minister. The meeting was supposed to begin at 3 pm but it had to be postponed till 8 pm.
Supporters of CM hopefuls come face-to-face: Supporters of state Congress chief Pratibha Singh and those of party campaign committee chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu were seen coming to face-to-face outside the party office, shouting slogans in support of their respective leaders. Pratibha Singh's supporters also stopped the car of party’s in-charge for the State, Rajeev Shukla, in Shimla and gave slogans.
What was decided in the meeting? The meeting was attended by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Rajeev Shukla. However, no consensus was reached and a resolution was passed that the high command should choose the leader to lead the state.
“We (observers) will submit our report to the high command tomorrow, appraising the high command that a resolution has been passed by the MLAs with consensus authorising the high command to choose the leader.”– Rajeev Shukla
Who are the top contenders? Three names are mainly doing the rounds for the top post – Pratibha Singh, Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, and Mukesh Agnihotri.
Pratibha Singh: Singh, 66, is the sitting MP from Mandi and the widow of late Virbhadra Singh, who was the CM of the hill state six times. Singh has been positioning herself as the natural choice and has given bites to the media on the similar lines. Her followers shouted slogans outside the party office on Friday in her support. Her son Vikramaditya Singh is an MLA.
Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu: Sukhu, 58, is the head of party's campaign committee. He, who began his career in student politics, is a three-time MLA.
Mukuesh Agnihotri: Agnihotri, 60, won assembly election for the fifth consecutive time from the Haroli constituency. He is a journalist-turned-politician, who has served as the Leader of Opposition.
Who are the other hopefuls? Kuldeep Singh Rathore, Harshwardhan Chauhan and Sudhir Sharma are some of the other names doing the rounds.
What to expect on Saturday? The party high command would be under pressure to declare the CM as soon as possible to clear the uncertainty and demonstrate that it has its act together. However, aspirations of all the hopefuls need to be managed carefully so that the decision does not lead to any defections or, in an extreme case, a coup.