Sukhu removed, Virbhadra made Cong campaign chief for HP polls

NEW DELHI, Oct 16: The Congress today named Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh as head of the party’s campaign committee for the November 9 Assembly polls, replacing state Congress chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu.

Only three days back, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had named Sukhu as chairman of the campaign committee and made Singh its member.

Gandhi has “approved” the name of Virbhadra Singh as the chairman of the campaign committee for the assembly elections in the state, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in a statement.

The campaign committee has already been announced earlier, Dwivedi added.

Singh and Sukhu have been at loggerheads, with the chief minister demanding immediate replacement as the PCC chief ahead of the elections.

However, Singh and Sukhu shared the stage today at a press conference, to show that all was well in the party.

AICC secretary and MLA Asha Kumari has been included in the State election committee as a member.

Singh said the first list of Congress candidates for the assembly polls will be out by tomorrow or Wednesday.

Asked about the differences within the party, Singh said the Congress party in Himachal Pradesh was united and would fight the election together.

On Sukhu, he said the party is now in election mode and there was no need for any changes. Singh was strongly demanding Sukhu’s removal and had said he will not contest if Sukhu remains PCC chief.

Sukhu, who joined the press conference towards the end, said though he wants to contest, the final decision will lie with the party high command. He indicated that he may change his seat. He lost the last election from Nadaun.

Singh said it was upto Sukhu to decide on whether he will contest or not.

The Chief Minister also launched the party’s campaign for the state – “Jawaab dega Himachal” (Himachal will give its reply) — on the development initiated in the state under his leadership, as a counter to the BJP’s campaign targeting him for corruption.

“My strength is the people of Himachal Pradesh and not the patronage of any individual. I shall repeat the Government,” an emphatic Singh said at the press conference.

The campaign, he said, is a counter to BJP’s campaign against him and his family on the issue of corruption as well as on prime minister Narendra Modi’s “failure” to fulfil his promises made to people before 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Meanwhile, the Pradesh Election Committee today held deliberations here and finalised party tickets to candidates for the upcoming elections.

Sources said the Pradesh Election Committee has recommended single candidates for 42 seats and sent a panel of names for the remaining 26 seats.

The Screening Committee headed by Jitendra Singh will sit and clear the names recommended and the Central Election Authority chaired by Congress President Sonia Gandhi will finally clear them before announcement in a day or two.

Singh said “winnability” was the only factor for distribution of party tickets but did not answer whether the “one family one ticket” formula would be made applicable in the State. The formula was successfully implemented in Punjab earlier.

The Chief Minister confirmed that his son Vikramaditya Singh will contest from Shimla Rural constituency, currently represented by Singh himself. He said his son has every right to contest, he being the Himachal Youth Congress chief.

Kaul Singh Thakur is demanding a party ticket for his daughter Champa from Shimla while G S Bali is also asking a ticket for his son.

Asked if all sitting MLAs will be repeated, he said almost all except a few who have opted out.

Sources said that Vidya Stokes, Viplove Thakur, Harsh Mahajan and Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu have stated before the Pradesh Election Committee that they do not wish to contest.

Besides, the sources point out that four senior leaders Virbhadra Singh, Asha Kumari, Mukesh Agnihotri and G S Bali had not applied for a party ticket, but the State Election Committee has asked them to contest and recommended their single names.

Sources also added that the chief minister will contest from either the Theog seat or from Arki seat, near Shimla.

Singh hit out at the BJP, saying it was trying to destabilise the Congress but will not succeed in its attempts.

Taking on the Prime Minister, he said Modi has not fulfilled his promises made to people and has “betrayed” their trust. He also invited him for a debate on the development of Himachal Pradesh.

He also accused the Modi Government of “step motherly” treatment towards the state and said the state was not given its due share in monetary assistance.

On corruption charges against him, he said, the BJP is making false allegations and “I will fight it out”. (PTI)


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