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Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times
Shimla, December 22, 2012
Himachal Pradesh Congress leader Virbhadra Singh will be the next chief minister of the state. This was announced by party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi here on Saturday night. Dwivedi said the party’s three central observers -- he, general secretary Birender Singh and Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit -- spoke to each of the 34 MLAs present at the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting individually and conveyed to party president Sonia Gandhi the legislators’ sentiment that Singh should be chief minister.

“Sonia ji has put her stamp of approval on Virbhadra Singh,” Dwivedi said soon after the CLP unanimously adopted a resolution authorising Sonia Gandhi to name the chief minister.

Virbhadra Singh has been credited with leading the Congress to a slim, but significant victory in the recently-concluded assembly elections in Himachal, where the party won 36 of the 68 seats, relegating the ruling BJP to second place with 26 seats.

Singh was in competition for the chief minister’s post with CLP leader Vidya Stokes and former state party president Kaul Singh Thakur but was seen as the front-runner soon after the election results were announced on Thursday.

The two MLAs who were not present at the meeting were former transport minister GS Bali who is hospitalised at Delhi’s AIIMS with a foot injury and Doon MLA Ram Kumar who is wanted by the Haryana Police and stayed away, fearing arrest.

Most of the Congress supporters present outside the venue of the CLP meeting were Virbhadra Singh followers, sporting trademark green caps. 

On Saturday governor Urmila Singh dissolved the assembly, paving the way for constitution of a new House a day after the state cabinet gave its recommendation.

During the day Shimla remained abuzz with activity as rival camps lobbied for support for the chief minister’s post.