Himachal’s Ex-Royal Family Makes Play For Top Post in Virbhadra’s Name
9 December, 2022 | Pranay Lad
In the midst of Congress factionalism, Pratibha Singh is competing with Sukhvinder Sukhu and Mukesh Agnihotri for the top position.
Pratibha Singh, the leader of the Himachal Congress, is vying for the position of chief minister in memory of her late husband Virbhadra Singh, the six-term chief minister who passed away last year. She is supported by her MLA son Vikramditya Singh.
She told the media outlet in Shimla, where MLAs will meet tomorrow to make a decision, in the presence of central party observers, “People have given us this mandate as a tribute to Virbhadra ji. Today is an emotional moment for me, and it seems like one of the many times that he led the party to victory.
Vikramditya, Pratibha Singh’s son and the political heir to the once-royal Rampur Bushahr family, supported her and asserted that she is one of the contenders.
He told the reporters, “If at all it comes to her (being picked), we are ready to take on any responsibility. She is the state party president; it is because of her that we have won. She now holds the seat left vacant by Virbhadra Singh in Mandi. Although she must be elected within six months, the law does not need her to be an MLA in order to be chief minister.
When asked if he was running, Vikramaditya Singh did not rule it out either, saying, “I would not back out if the party assigns me any responsibility.”
Congress is a democratic party, therefore whatever the MLAs decide would be respected, he added.
More than Virbhadra Singh’s wife or son, there are two other candidates who haven’t publicly entered the race yet: veteran politician Mukesh Agnihotri and the current head of the opposition, Sukhvinder Sukhu.
The party dreaded the BJP’s “Operation Lotus,” which was a euphemism for persuading MLAs to change sides in order to overthrow the governments of opposition parties. This factionalism was one of the reasons for this worry. This just happened to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh.
There were discussions about sending MLAs to a state run by the Congress or at the very least to nearby Chandigarh when it appeared that the Congress would win, although by a slim margin, in order to better fend off BJP poaching attempts.
The MLAs will convene in Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, tomorrow since the party now holds 40 seats in the 68-member House, compared to the BJP’s 25.
When queried about the chief minister, the party’s central observer used the standard Congress response: “The high leadership will decide after discussion with MLAs.”
Himachal is crucial to instilling some confidence in the Congress after its disastrous loss in PM Modi’s home state of Gujarat today.