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With Photo Finish Predicted in Himachal Polls, Lobbying by Congress Leaders for CM Post in Sharp Focus

With a little over ten days left for the counting of votes and prediction of a photo finish in the Himachal Pradesh assembly polls, backroom parleys have begun within different lobbies in the Congress party to arrive at a consensus over who could stake claim to the chief ministerial post in case the party manages to form the government in the BJP-ruled state.

With pollsters predicting a neck-and-neck contest and the Congress hoping to come back to power, the lobbying in the party is visibly more hectic on who should be in the race for the topmost post.

Every move of the leaders belonging to different lobbies is being keenly watched. Himachal Congress chief Pratibha Singh and her MLA son Vikramaditya Singh could not get an audience with Rahul Gandhi and hence took part in the Bharat Jodo Yatra, joining it at the Madhya Pradesh leg. “The leaders realise that the Gandhis could hold the key to picking the CM candidate. So they didn’t leave the chance to take part in the yatra since they didn’t get the chance during the campaign with Rahul staying away,” commented a leader.

This step by the former royals is seen by many in the state Congress unit as an attempt by them to convey to the high command that they should be considered for the post of chief minister if the Congress comes to power.

Not behind in the race for the CM is the present leader of opposition Mukesh Agnihotri, a four-time MLA who also held important portfolios in the Virbhadra Singh-led government prior to 2017. Agnihotri is seen as a close confidante of Pratibha Singh and has the support of MLAs and is a regular feature at Holly Lodge (the residence of Virbhadra Singh).

Sukhwinder Sukhu, another senior Congress leader, who has the support of at least 10 MLAs and is not seen as a favourite of Pratibha Singh is hoping to stake claim with the support of the MLAs who do not support the Mandi MP.

“Sukhu is seen as a party man who can take all factions along, even though Pratibha Singh’s camp does not like him,” said a senior Congress leader. He has been a man of the organisation and a seasoned politician.

While the results will be out on December 8, in the Himachal Pradesh Congress the fight for supremacy is already on.

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