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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Virbhadra ahead of pack in race for chief minister post

Gaurav Bisht and Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times  Shimla/New Delhi, December 22, 2012
First Published: 00:11 IST(22/12/2012) | Last Updated: 00:12 IST(22/12/2012)

Congress veteran Virbhadra Singh has emerged as the front-runner for the post of the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, even though a section of the Congress leaders are still jockeying for the post.

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If elected, Singh will become chief minister for the sixth time in the state.

Besides his stature and formidable record, Singh has two aces up his sleeve: His contribution in crafting a victory and his considerable following within the party. 

The contribution has already been acknowledged.

"He led the party to victory," party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury said in New Delhi.

The Congress is also aware that given Singh's large support base among the elected MLAs, he has the capacity to split the party, said party insiders.

Singh's chances brightened after the Congress decided to hold its legislative party meeting in Shimla on Saturday.

Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi and Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit will go to Shimla as observers for the meeting. Dwivedi's inclusion assumes significance as he played a key role in pacifying Singh when he had threatened to quit the party before the elections.

On Friday, as Singh's detractors, former state Congress chief Kaul Singh Thakur and former ministers Asha Kumari and GS Bali, visited Delhi, Singh called on Congress legislature party leader Vidya Stokes. The Thoubal MLA is perceived as a possible chief ministerial candidate by a section of the Congress.

But Stokes denied having any such aspiration.

"Who said I am vying to become a chief minister? The final call will be taken by AICC chief Sonia Gandhi," she said.


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