Cong's Himachal drama: Pratibha Singh's supporters' show of strength in CM race
Himachal Pradesh Assembly election: The Congress returned to power in the hill state by capturing 40 of the 68 seats, with the outgoing Bharatiya Janata Party getting only 25.
The euphoria of the Himachal Pradesh election win past, the Congress must now select someone to replace the BJP's Jai Ram Thakur as chief minister.
To help the Congress find a candidate acceptable to all factions in the state, three senior leaders - state-in-charge Rajeev Shukla, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and ex Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Hooda - have been dispatched and met state unit chief Pratibha Singh and others.
Shukla stressed the final call would be made by Delhi. "... we received majority... we will meet people's aspirations. Have called elected MLAs and (had) an unofficial meeting... party high command will make the decision."
Among the names doing the round is Pratibha Singh, who is also the wife of the late six-time former CM Virbhadra Singh and who said, "... am not saying I am in the race' and then said the party 'can't neglect his family..."
READ | 'Can't neglect him...': Late CM's wife as Cong preps in Himachal
However, a video shared by ANI underlined the apparent support for Singh.
The 45-second clip showed a horde of men believed to be her supporters blocked Baghel's convoy and reportedly shouted slogans backing Singh.
Earlier in the day Baghel stressed 'there is no problem' and said,, "No question of neglecting anyone... everyone has the right to express their opinion."
That was after Singh spoke about the Congress winning on her husband's name.
Pratibha Singh - a Lok Sabha MP from Mandi - did not contest. This means she must win an Assembly seat within six months if she is named the new CM.
Her son, though, is an elected MLA, and can be chosen. Vikramaditya Singh won the Shimla (rural) seat held by his father. He, though, is batting for his mother.
Speaking after the meeting, she said, "We will hold a meeting in the evening and then decide the name... there is no groupism and everybody is with us.".
Who are the Himachal CM frontrunners?
The Congress has multiple claims to choose from - and that makes it a difficult task since the unlucky candidates and their supporters could become disgruntled and create unrest as the party looks to build on this win.
Pratibha Singh is understood to have the support of a majority of the new MLAs, many of whom have remained loyal to Virbhadra Singh's family.
Other options include ex state unit leader Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, who narrowly neat the BJP's Vijay Kumar to claim the Nadaum seat. Sukhu indicated the party's High Command will select the chief minister, but also seemed to sneak in a caveat, adding, "… one from those who had contested the election".
Full Coverage | 2022 Himachal Pradesh Assembly Election
Outgoing legislature party leader Mukesh Agnihotri and another ex Himachal Congress chief - Kuldeep Singh Rathore - are also hopefuls.
READ | Pratibha, Sukhu and Mukesh Agnihotri line up for Himachal CM post
The party eased to win after votes were counted Thursday, claiming 40 seats. The BJP won 25 seats and independent candidates claimed the three remaining constituencies, with the Aam Aadmi Party failing to excite on its debut.
With input from ANI