With an eye on gaining a foothold in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh, the NCP, a key UPA constituent, has stepped up efforts to woo Congress leader and five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh.
Aware of the fact that Virbhadra has been unhappy over a series of decisions taken by the Congress leadership, the NCP has sent him feelers to lead the party in its electoral debut in the hill state. "We are in touch with him," said an NCP leader.
Virbhadra could not be contacted and his office denied any such move.
Virbhadra, who wants to be projected as the CM candidate in the upcoming assembly polls, met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi twice on Tuesday.
HT has learnt that the Trinamool Congress, a key UPA ally keen on establishing itself in north India, had also sent him feelers. But the Virbhadra camp has reservations over a tie-up with Mamata Banerjee, who is far junior to him in politics.
Virbhadra had resigned as union minister on June 26 following a court ruling that charges were made out against him in a graft case. Later, he was named chief of the party's campaign panel but soon quit from it in protest against his exclusion from the panel for shortlisting candidates.
Though the Congress leadership sought to placate him by naming Gangu Ram Musafir as working president of the state unit, Virbhadra in a show of streangth hosted a lunch for his supporters in Delhi. It was attended by 12 of the party's 23 legislators, leaders of frontal organisations and seven ex-ministers.
The trigger for Virbhadra to make his displeasure known was the appointment of Anand Sharma as the head of the manifesto panel. One of his key demands is removal of Kaul Singh Thakur, a Sharma loyalist, as PCC chief.