The Congress on Tuesday announced Pratibha Singh,former MP and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singhs wife,as the partys candidate for the June 23 Mandi Lok Sabha bypoll. This comes three-and-half years after she was denied the ticket for the Assembly bypoll from Rohru a Congress stronghold.
Within minutes after her name was cleared by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi,Industries and Public Relations Minister Mukesh Agnihotri said Pratibha will file her nomination papers on May 30. The seat had fallen vacant following the resignation of Virbhadra after Congress won the state Assembly polls in December 2012.
Virbhadra,along with a team of cabinet ministers,had been in New Delhi for the last three days to lobby for the candidature of Pratibha.
After losing power to the BJP in 2007 polls,Virbhadra had fought a grim battle to maintain his political supremacy as state party units command was in the hands of his detractors. Pratibhas name was not considered for Rohru. However,things changed after he returned to the chief ministers post for the sixth time in the 2012 polls. Now,the decision to field his wife from Mandi shows Virbhadra enjoys the partys backing.
According to sources,Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was reluctant to give tickets to the sons and wives of sitting party leaders following the humiliating defeat in the recent Uttarakhand Lok Sabha bypoll,where the son of Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna lost.
However,after receiving a report from Himachal party president Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu and independent inputs from the state,Sonia Gandhi did not consider any other option. In fact,no top Mandi leaders offered to contest. Except one,most including sitting MLAs and ministers,supported Pratibha Singh, said a senior AICC leader in Delhi.
When contacted,Pratibha said: I am really thankful to Congress president Sonia Gandhi for giving me an opportunity to contest and win the seat. Soon,I will file my nomination papers and take the entire party along to prepare a campaign strategy. I also want the opportunity to serve people of this constituency.