The last leg of the high-voltage Congress campaign in Himachal Pradesh saw senior leaders projecting their own choices as the chief ministerial candidates, a complete deviation from the party's decades-old policy of keeping the issue open till the end.
Congress general secretary
in-charge of Himachal Pradesh Birendra Singh was the first to break the party convention.
Addressing an election rally at Nagrota in Kangra district on Thursday, Birendra Singh announced contestant GS Bali, a known baiter of veteran leader Virbhadra Singh, as the party's chief ministerial candidate.
This was followed by Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh's news conference in Shimla on Friday.
"It is evident from the mood of the people that Congress will certainly return to power in Himachal under the leadership of five-time chief minister Raja Vibhadra Singh," he said.
He even went to the extent of saying that declaring Virbhadra Singh as its chief ministerial candidate ahead of the elections given his mass base, stature, experience and rapport with the people would have boosted the Congress party's poll prospects.
Former state unit chief Kaul Singh Thakur has also reportedly got the support of a senior central leader for the top post in the hill state that goes to polls on Sunday.
Angry state leaders have approached the central leadership, stating that such statements were bound to hurt the party's poll prospects.
Usually, the practice in the party is to keep the issue open and alive as there are several claimants for the CM's post in a state, and let the elected legislators authorise the Congress high command to take a decision.
A move to deviate from this policy backfired on the Congress in Punjab polls when Rahul Gandhi declared Amarinder Singh as the party's chief ministerial candidate in the middle of the polls early this year.
But the gamble did not pay off as the party suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of the Akali Dal-BJP combine.
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