A daunting task ahead for Himachal Congress chief Pratibha
Himachal Congress chief Pratibha faces challenge of uniting the faction-ridden state unit and countering the ‘well-organised’ BJP in the upcoming assembly polls
Even as the Congress looks to enhance its performance in Himachal Pradesh with the much-awaited rejig, Pratibha Singh, who has been appointed as the party’s new state chief, faces an uphill task of uniting the faction-ridden state unit and countering the ‘well-organised’ BJP in the upcoming assembly elections.
The appointment of Pratibha, 66, is also a signal that the Congress had no other option but to depend on the legacy of her late husband Virbhadra Singh, who served as Himachal chief minister for record six terms.
The party was reeling under leadership crisis after Virbhadra’s demise with several factions fighting for dominance. Earlier, former HP chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu and leader of Congress Legislative Party (CLP) Mukesh Agnihotri were the top contenders. Sukhu later started lobbying for the post of campaign committee head while Agnihotri reportedly stepped back after the high command imposed a condition that PCC chief will not contest the assembly elections.
It was after the long deliberation that party high command finalised Pratibha’s name for the top post. Her victory in the by-election for Mandi parliamentary seat, the home turf of incumbent chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, had strengthened her claim for the post. It is assumed that sympathy from the public following Virbhadra’s death had benefitted the Congress in the by-polls to Mandi Lok Sabha seat and three assembly segments.
However, keeping her flock together amid the rise of the AAP, which presents itself as a third option in the state, would be a tough challenge for the third-term MP, who has little experience in running the party affairs.
Interestingly, it is after 10 years that the Virbhadra family has got the reins of the state’s party unit and entrusted with the responsibility of bringing back the party in power in the hill state. In 2012, Virbhadra had returned to the state as PCC chief and single-handedly managed to take the party across victory line.
Pratibha said her prime focus will be to work in tandem with all state leaders, unitedly fight the upcoming assembly elections and bring the Congress back in power. “We are a big family. Many leaders are far more experienced than me. We will sit together to talk about various issues and chalk out strategy to ensure party’s victory,” she added.
She also ruled out further changes in the organisation at the state level. On the CM’s face, Pratibha said the chief minister will be selected by the legislative party.
A delicate balance
With the new appointments, the Congress has struck a delicate balance keeping in mind the caste equations, experience and the young leadership.
The party has appointed four working presidents -- Pawan Kajal, Rajinder Singh Rana, Harsh Mahajan and Vinay Kumar. Kajal belongs to the dominant OBC community of Kangra, the politically significant district which decides which party forms the government. Vinay Kumar comes from SC community which has a significant population in the state, whereas Rana is a Rajput and Mahajan comes from the prominent Baniya community.
Anand Sharma, an experience hand in the national politics, has been given the important assignment of heading the steering committee. Senior leaders like Ram Lal Thakur, Kaul Singh Thakur, Dhani Ram Shandil and Gangu Ram Musafir have also been accommodated in various other committees. Similarly, young leaders like Ashish Butail, Rohit Thakur, Sudhir Sharma, Anirudh Singh and Raghubir Singh Bali have been given important assignments within the committees.
Rise of Sukhu
Status of former party chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu has again rose in the party with his appointment as the head of election campaign committee. What is more important that he would be the member of screening committee that will shortlist candidates for the assembly elections. This is seen as a balancing act so that no faction gets dominance in the ticket allocation. It is pertinent to mention here that mostly Virbhadra was appointed the campaign committee head before the assembly elections.
Khanna slams Congress for promoting dynasty politics
BJP’s Himachal in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna on Wednesday slammed the Congress for ‘promoting nepotism’.
In a press statement issued here, Khanna said the Congress can’t see beyond families and appointment of Pratibha Singh was just another example of familism prevailing in the party.
He also mocked the Congress for appointing four working presidents. Khanna said it gives an impression that the Congress doubts the efficiency of its president.
Khanna said that it is something to think about that how a president will be able to take decision when there are four working presidents.
Ideally, an organisation should have only one president. He further said this time, the entire executive committee of the Congress has been declared from Delhi itself, which reflects that the state party unit is nothing but a puppet being controlled remotely from the Capital.