High drama continued ahead of the crucial meeting of newly- elected 40 Congress legislators of Himachal Pradesh to nominate the legislature party leader as it was delayed till Friday night, for the third time in a row.
Party observers — Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda and AICC in-charge for state Rajiv Shukla — earlier in the day met Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar to hand over list of MLAs showing the strength to form the government.
The meeting, which is now slated for the night, was postponed with Member of Parliament and state unit chief Pratibha Singh’s supporters raised slogans in her favour, demanding her appointment as the Chief Minister.
The wife of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, she is believed to be the frontrunner for the top job.
A day after getting majority in the 68-member Assembly, 40 Congress lawmakers were to meet in the state capital in the presence of party’s observers to nominate the legislative party leader.
Besides Pratibha Singh, former party chief Sukhwinder Sukhu and Mukesh Agnihotri are considered key frontrunners for the Chief Minister’s post.
At the meeting, a decision will be taken to authorise Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge to finalise the name of the legislative party leader.
The Congress on Thursday got an absolute majority in the Assembly elections, winning 40 seats – six more than the half-way mark of 34, while the outgoing BJP was reduced to 25.
While outgoing Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur won, many of his ministers, including Suresh Bhardwaj, Ram Lal Markanda, Sarveen Chaudhary, Rakesh Pathania, Govind Thakur, Virender Kanwar, and Rajiv Saizal lost the election.
Three Independents, comprising two BJP rebels and one Congress, emerged victorious.
Himachal Pradesh has not voted any incumbent government back to power since 1985.
Considering the family legacy and contribution, Pratibha Singh had sought votes in the Assembly polls on development carried out by her husband Virbhadra Singh during his six terms as the Chief Minister.
Pratibha Singh, who had not contested the Assembly polls, missed no opportunity to remind the electorate that the victory in Assembly election “will be a tribute to him (Virbhadra Singh)”.
“Not only the Congress supporters but also from other parties voted for us as a tribute for Virbhadra Singh,” said Pratibha Singh, who won the Mandi seat in the 2021 Lok Sabha bypoll and was appointed state chief well-ahead of the Assembly polls
She had spearheaded the poll campaign on the legacy of Virbhadra Singh, and banked on the party’s promise to bring back the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) that will benefit 225,000 employees, a crucial vote bank.