Union minister Virbhadra Singh on Saturday sought a review of decades-old Congress policy of not announcing its chief ministerial candidate in advance in any election going state, a demand that is bound to cause some unease in the party.
Usually, the practice in the Congress 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.
"There is a need to review this policy especially in the present context," Singh said.
The veteran leader's demand was being seen by many in the party as projecting himself for the chief ministerial candidate in Himachal Pradesh that along with Gujarat will go to polls later this year. Both the states are ruled by the BJP.
But a section in the Congress point out to the failure of the experiment in Punjab, where party general secretary Rahul Gandhi declared state unit chief Captain Amarinder Singh as the chief ministerial candidate but still could not win the elections and suffered a shocking defeat by the Akali Dal-BJP combine.
Sidelined over the past some years by the party leadership, Singh silenced his detractors by converting a public meeting on Saturday into a show of strength held to celebrate his 78th birthday, which also marked completion of his 50 years in politics and the Congress party.
Barring Himachal Pradesh Congress chief Kaul Singh Thakur and senior leader GS Bali, the entire state leadership, including his staunch opponent Vidya Stokes and 21 out of the 23 sitting legislators, was by his side at the rally.
In a veiled message to the central leadership to immediately hand over the reins of the Congress in Himachal Pradesh to him, Singh said he was ready to accept any responsibility to lead the party to victory in the coming polls.
"I have been a dedicated soldier of Congress for last 50 years. I will perform whatever responsibility the party high command entrusts me," he said.