'Can't neglect him...': Late CM's wife as Cong preps to select new Himachal CM
Himachal Pradesh Election Results: The Congress won 40 of the state's 68 seats, with the BJP limited to 25 and three won by independent candidates.
Confirmation of the Congress' Himachal Pradesh win Thursday has been followed swiftly by speculation about the chief minister's post, with rival camps gearing up to challenge each other. One of those seen as a contender to replace Jai Ram Thakur is Pratibha Virbhadra Singh - the wife of the late six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh - who fired a warning shot late last night.
The Congress is scheduled to hold a meeting of its newly elected Himachal MLAs this afternoon, at which a resolution authorising the party president - Mallikarjun Kharge - to pick the legislature party leader will likely be passed.
Full Coverage | 2022 Himachal Pradesh Assembly Election
"... we won this poll in the name of the late Virbhadra Singh... you can't neglect him and his family," the party's state unit boss told news agency ANI. She also played down talk of her being the next chief minister, saying, "I am not saying I am in the race... MLAs will choose their leader. They will make the best decision, which will be conveyed to high command."
Pratibha Singh - a Lok Sabha MP from Himachal's Mandi, outgoing chief minister Thakur's home district - did not contest this election, although she did campaign extensively and lead the party's charge. This means she will have to win an Assembly seat within six months if she is named the Congress' new CM.
READ | Voters were troubled by the misrule of BJP: Pratibha Singh to HT
Her son, though, is an elected MLA, and can be chosen as CM; Vikramaditya Singh contested and won the Shimla (rural) seat once held by his father.
Singh claimed a comfortable win, securing over 34,000 votes to the nearly 21,000 polled by the Bharatiya Janata Party's Ravi Kumar Mehta.
Vikramaditya Singh - now a two-time MLA from this seat - could therefore be a contender, although he is batting for the post to be given to his mother.
"As a son and a responsible leader of the party, I want the high command to give the responsibility to my mother… (but) party’s choice will be acceptable."
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.
READ | Who will be Himachal Pradesh's next CM? Here are the frontrunners
The Congress does have more experienced options - ex state unit leader Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, who narrowly neat the BJP's Vijay Kumar to claim the Nadaum seat, and outgoing CLP leader Mukesh Agnihotri are in the fray.
READ | Pratibha, Sukhu and Mukesh Agnihotri line up for Himachal CM post
Another ex Himachal Congress chief - Kuldeep Singh Rathore - is also a hopeful, on claims he helped re-unite the faction-ridden party over the last few years.
The Congress returns to power in the hill state after easing to victory over the BJP in an election held last month; the win is a welcome one for a party that had struggled to convince at elections over the past few years. The Congress 40 of the state's 68 seats.
With input from ANI