Ground Situation Not Favourable, I Have Declined To Contest Lok Sabha: Pratibha Singh

Pratibha Singh said she had told the party to find a new winnable candidate for Mandi and let her focus on the party campaign in the state.

(PTI Photo)
Himachal Pradesh Congress President Pratibha Singh arrives to attend a meeting of the party after the Assembly results, in Shimla, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. (PTI Photo)

The storm ignited by cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha poll by six party MLAs and thereafter their disqualification from the state assembly gathered strength and could also engulf the party, ahead of Lok Sabha polls.

Causing a fresh blow to the Congress, sitting MP Pratibha Singh on Wednesday made it public that she has decided not to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Wife of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, she is also PCC president.

The development puts the party in quandary about growing conflict between the party and its government despite a temporary truce after the Congress having rushed a central team to Shimla to save the government from a near-collapse on February 27 after the cross-voting.

Being a senior party leader and a potential candidate from Mandi, she could offer the seat to the BJP almost on platter. Thus, the party wants her to re-think her decision.

She was a Chief Ministerial post contender in 2022 state assembly polls but it was Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, who became the party's final choice for the post.

This has left Pratibha Singh sulking and also feeling ignored in the new dispensation.

Returning from Delhi—where she attended the party’s working committee meeting, Pratibha Singh said “the ground situation is not favourable and thus she has told the party about her inability to contest the poll.”

Pratibha Singh was elected from Mandi in the 2021 bypoll riding a strong sympathy wave in favour of her late husband. The party victory in the bypoll for Mandi--ahead of the 2022 state assembly poll, sent strong signals about anti-incumbency gripping the ruling BJP that was eyeing at the power for second consecutive term---on "double engine" chant.

The seat had fallen vacant after the demise of sitting BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma.

Talking to media persons at her residence –Holly Lodge, the PCC president said, “I have toured the state extensively and found that no worker is active and in such a situation, it is difficult to achieve success”.

Further asked about her position, Pratibha Singh declared “I have declined to contest the elections as I am not in a position to put up a fight. You cannot win polls just by distributing MPLAD funds,” she said.

The PCC president held a strong view about party workers feeling disheartened and ignored after the formation of the Congress government. No heed was paid to her repeated pleas to the Chief Minister to fix the problem.

“If the party workers who had worked hard for the party’s victory in the assembly elections were given responsibilities and importance, they would have been active on the ground” she said.

In Delhi, where the party leaders discussed the poll scenario in the state and also choice of the candidates, Chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu was also present and apparently sought time from the party to work-out things as the government was still grappling with the situation created by the cross voting.

Six MLAs who cross-voted from the BJP and later also defied the party whip in the state assembly during passing of the budget for year 2024-25, stand disqualified. The ECI has announced simultaneous bypoll for June 1 in six constituencies they represented as Congress MLAs.

The Congress, in order to get stability for its government, should win at least one or two seats as the government has already fallen short of a majority in the House. The active strength of the party has been reduced to 34 in the 68-member House.

Alleging that 14-month congress rule in the state has left the party workers completely disenchanted despite having worked hard in the 2022 assembly polls to see that the congress returns to power.

“Fourteen months is a long period and I have been consistently urging the chief minister to accommodate leaders who worked hard for the victory of the party but nothing was done,” she said.

PCC Chief regretted “Had the issues of the disgruntled MLAs been addressed on time, the crisis could have been avoided.”

Pratibha Singh said she had told the party to find a new winnable candidate for Mandi and let her focus on the party campaign in the state.

The BJP ,which is confident about a hat-trick this time, has already won all four seats in 2014 and 2019 riding on Modi-wave. However , the 2021 bypoll in Mandi was a blow to the party losing the seat to Pratibha Singh by a narrow margin.

In 2009, the party had won three Lok Sabha seats as Virbhadra Singh was elected to the Parliament from Mandi.