Rahul Gandhi was also seen hugging Pratibha Singh, wife of late Virbhadra Singh, on stage.
Top Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra attended the oath taking ceremony of the new Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, and his deputy — Mukesh Agnihotri — at Ridge Maidan in Shimla on Sunday.
Here’s your 10-point guide to this big story:
- In a grand symbolic gesture on stage right after the newly elected leaders were sworn-in, a garlanded picture of late Virbhadra Singh, former royal and six time Chief Minister of the hill state, was put up and all leaders paid their respects with folded hands. Party president Mallikarjun Kharge also accompanied the Gandhis for the big event.ADVERTISING
- Congress MP Rahul Gandhi was also seen hugging Pratibha Singh, wife of late Virbhadra Singh, on stage. Ms Singh was the other contender for the top post, and had even staked claim with a subtle yet stern reminder to the party high command.
- She had said the elections were fought and won in the name of her husband Virbhadra Singh, who died last year, and it would be “a disaster” to sideline his family. However, she doesn’t enjoy popular support among the grand old party’s newly-elected 40 MLAs which is why she was dropped from the contest, sources said.
- The Gandhis’ gesture is an olive branch to the disgruntled supporters of Pratibha Singh, who had mobbed the hotel where the party’s central observers were staying, and raised slogans in her support. They even stopped the car of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, one of the central observers, before the party’s crucial meeting, to send a direct message to the leadership.
- The decision to appoint Mukesh Agnihotri, the leader of the opposition in the outgoing Himachal Pradesh assembly, as the first Deputy Chief Minister of the state is also being seen as a balancing act by the Congress to assuage egos. Mr Agnihotri is Virbhadra Singh’s protege, and Pratibha Singh had reportedly even batted for him to be made the Chief Minister after she was ruled out herself.
- This is All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Priyanka Gandhi’s first electoral success while heading the campaign charge. The party had lost Uttar Pradesh assembly polls while she spearheaded the canvassing there earlier this year.
- Mr Sukhu, MLA from Nadaun in the hill state’s Hamirpur district, headed the Congress’ campaign committee for the recently held state polls.
- 58-year-old Sukhvinder Sukhu was chosen by the Congress high command for the top post amid hectic lobbying by Pratibha Singh, Congress MP and the wife of former Chief Minister and Congress veteran, the late Virbhadra Singh.
- A four-time MLA, Mr Sukhu is the son of a bus driver and started his political career from the campus of Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla.
- Though the Congress wrested power from the BJP in Himachal Pradesh by winning 40 out of the 68 assembly seats, party candidates had a wafer-thin victory margin of less than 2,000 in 15 seats. The Congress and the BJP got 40 and 25 seats respectively, but the difference in the vote share was only 0.90 per cent.