Now that it looks set to form the government in Himachal Pradesh, the Congress might face the problem of plenty, with several chief minister contenders in the fray.
During the campaign, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had mocked the Congress, saying the party had at least eight contenders for the CM’s post. Responding to the barb, Sudhir Sharma, former MLA from Dharamshala and ex-minister, said, “The Congress is a democratic party where anyone can dream of becoming the CM.” He also said, “He is talking about eight CM candidates, but I can say that there may be more. After all, this shows how democratic the Congress is.”
The three considered ahead of others in the race are Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, Mukesh Agnihotri and Pratibha Singh. While Singh is a sitting MP and did not contest, Sukhu and Agnihotri were on course to winning their seats.
While two other leaders were considered in contention for the post, Asha Kumari and Kaul Singh Thakur, they are almost out of the picture. While Kumari, a six-time MLA from Dalhousie, is set to lose from her seat, Thakur, an eight-time MLA, who had won consistently from Mandi’s Drang constituency, also lost the seat.
Speaking to The Indian Express after the results indicated that the Congress would get a majority, Agnihotri said the party would not need rebels to form the government, contrary to the BJP’s claims of still having a chance.
SUKHVINDER SINGH SUKHU: The party’s former state president and its campaign committee chief, Sukhu contested from Nadaun seat in central Himachal. The three-time MLA with acceptablity among the party cadre is considered among the strongest contenders for the CM’s post. Officially, Sukhu has said the CM would be decided by the party high command.
MUKESH AGNIHOTRI: The Leader of the Opposition, Agnihotri contested from Haroli in south-west Himachal. A four-time MLA, his constituency was called Santokgarh before delimitation, from which he was elected for the first time in 2003. Agnihotri was elected Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader after the 2017 Assembly polls.
PRATIBHA SINGH: The current Himachal PCC chief and the wife of former CM and Congress doyen Virbhadra Singh, Singh was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004 from Mandi in central Himachal, defeating Maheshwar Singh. In the 2013 bypoll, she defeated incumbent chief minister Jai Ram Thakur from the same seat that was earlier represented by her husband before he became the CM. She was elected MP following the death of the BJP’s Ram Swaroop Sharma.