Photo source: Internet
Shimla, Dec 9
The Congress party managed to return to power after winning 2022 assembly elections on the basis of OPS without a commander is burning midnight burners to search for a new Chief minister candidate among the elected candidates.  In 40 out of 68 seats, the Congress defeated rival BJP with the highest and lowest margin.
Soon as the election results are declared, the race for the Chief Minister has started in the Congress.  The State President of the Congress has strongly staked claim for the post of Chief Minister.  Pratibha Singh believes that in the assembly elections, the people of the state have paid tribute to the Congress in the form of votes for the developmental work of late Virbhadra Singh.  Therefore, the command should respect the sentiments of the people and take a decision in their favour.
Undoubtedly, late Virbhadra Singh was a very popular leader and had deep thoughts for the development of the state and not only Congress and general public, leaders and people of other political parties also supported him and his works will be appreciated in future also.
However political analyst feel that State President Pratibha Singh’s claim for the post of Chief Minister would have to be rethought with credentials. First political test, she is not elected legislator. In Pratibha Singh’s home turf Rampur, Congress was winning by landslide 20 to 25 thousand votes for decades however this time the margin of victory is only a hundred votes. In her own parliamentary constituency Mandi, Congress has won only 5 seats in 17 assembly constituencies. Out of these five elected Congress MLA  seats three are not going to favor her claim for CM post as Jagat Singh Negi, Ravi Thakur, Bhuvneswar Gaur may support other candidates .
The Congress has registered a thumping victory from the Shimla parliamentary constituency. It has won 13 seats out of 17 assembly constituencies. In these 13 seats, along with the State President, four to five elected MLAs are standing like rocks with her.  However  two themselves claim the post of Chief Minister, what mention more;  loyalty of the rest of the MLAs is somewhere else.
Yes, if it is a matter of carrying forward the legacy of late Virbhadra Singh, then the claim is justified. There were many stalwarts leaders in the list of aspirants for the Chief Minister’s post, out of which three have lost the election including eight time Congress MLA Kaul Singh Thakur, Six time MLA Asha Kumari and Ram Lal Thakur.
Those who won are Harshvardhan Chauhan from Shillai, Dhaniram Shandil from Solan also claim on the basis of their seniority and experience. They could stake claim, but their strength in politics in terms of MLAs are negligible. They could be elected CM by the blessings of the high command however art of political maneuvering are needed.
If the current elected MLAs are considered, then three names come to the fore, Mukesh Agnihotri, MLA from Haroli, Prof. Chandra Kumar from Jawali and Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu from Nadaun.
Agnihotri who is hardcover Agnihotar Brahmin; he knows the political art of manipulation. Journalist turned politician has tremendous influence in the administration as well, and in his long political journey of 20 years, however he could not find the expected partner, then in politics, the power of numbers is the absolute truth. He must have learned this thing from his political guru Virbhadra! Even as the leader of the opposition, Agnihotri did not leave the mark of political courage and aggressive leadership. Issues related to the people of the state, such as decreasing land holdings, difficulties for the farmers to take their crops to the market and sell them at the right prices, decreasing employment of the youth, lack of education.The Leader of the Opposition did not consider issues like exploitation of parents and students due to privatization and the plight of the environment as the main ones.
Now, Chandra Kumar, who belongs to Kangra district, also a strong claimant, political pundits say that the way to the throne of Shimla passes through Kangra. Kumar started his political journey in 1982. He has been a five-time MLA, once in 2004 by defeating BJP veteran Shanta Kumar from Kangra parliamentary constituency. He has also been a minister in the cabinet of Virbhadra Singh. He has held various positions in the organization at the state level. Chandra Kumar is a big leader of the OBC community, that is why he has won his election even after staying away from electoral politics for ten years. Chandra Kumar maintains rapport with all Congress leaders. Chances are, his age could be a hindrance as the Congress high command is on the path of bringing youth forward.
The third contender for the Chief Minister’s post is Nadaun MLA Sukhwinder Singh. Sukhwinder Singh is a leader raised from the grassroots level. He progressed step by step, promoteed moving forward on the organizational path.  Sukhu started the journey of state’s electoral politics as a councilor and from student politics of the organization, Sukhu was the president of NSUI, Youth Congress and Congress.
While giving importance to the politics of values, many times he also became an object of displeasure of senior leaders.  Sukhu contested his assembly election in 2003 and became an MLA.  He lost his election in 2013.  Won the election again in 2017.  Sukhu became the chairman of the Congress election campaign committee in 2022.  Sukhu’s claim for the post of Chief Minister is quite solid.
If we see the number of his supporters among the elected MLAs, then Sukhu has the support of 20 to 22 MLAs, while out of the remaining 20, 5 to 7 MLAs depend on the high command’s instructions.
According to political sources, Sukhu has a good rapport with the high command and is a trustworthy leader.  Sukhu is weak in political manipulation.  He is known for true firm politics.  So far, Congress newly elected MLAs  have convened  a meeting of the elected Congress MLAs, in which the name of the leader of the Congress Legislature Party could be suggested however party couldn’t do it with mere consent of MLA or majority of elected voters but opinion of the high command and the MLAs would be essential.
Poltical Pandits say that Congress party is facing tough time even after passing the litmus test of election as many aspirants of CM forced the party leaders to burn midnight oil today or may be tomorrow and perhaps in days to come, if required. Party Incharge Rajiv Shukla, AICC central observors, Chhatisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Bhagel and former Chief minister of Haryana Bhupinder Hooda handed over a letter of party to Himachal Pradesh Governor to stake parties claim to form government in Himachal Pradesh.


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