Lobbying Happens, But No Factionalism In Congress: Himachal CM Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu

Himachal Pradesh CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu further made it clear that he will not have anything to do with the government formation and selection of cabinet ministers. It would be a 'challenge for Rajiv Shukla, he will take all the decisions,' he said.

Himachal Pradesh CM Sukhvinder Sukhu (2R) with Congress top leadership in Shimla

Newly sworn-in Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu dismissed any intra-party rivalry within the Congress' state unit and told NDTV in an interview on Sunday that "Lobbying happens, but there is no factionalism in the Congress in Himachal… It was a narrative by BJP."

He further made it clear that he will not have anything to do with the government formation and selection of cabinet ministers. It would be a "challenge for Rajiv Shukla (Congress' state in-charge for Himachal Pradesh), he will take all the decisions," he said.

Sukhu thanks Congress party, Gandhi family

Sukhu thanked the Congress party and the Gandhi family in his comments, and said that it is a moment of pride for Himachal Pradesh that a man from a humble background had risen to the ranks of the Chief Minister. 

"I have risen from a very humble background, it's a moment of pride that a man like me has been made the Chief Minister," he told NDTV. "It is a moment of happiness that a Congress worker was given this opportunity. I thank the Congress and the Gandhi family for this," he added.  

There are now expectations that the Congress will have to perform a careful balancing act by offering Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) Head Pratibha Singh and her son Vikramaditya Singh key posts in the newly formed government. 

The triangular tussle for the CM post

Sukhu's rise to the Chief ministerial office came after a heated contest with his rival, PCC Chief and six-term former CM Virbhadra Singh's wife, Pratibha Singh, who garnered immense support from sections of the Congress party. When asked about Virbhadra Singh's political legacy in the state, Sukhu said, "We will take forward the Congress legacy. It is not only Virbhadra Singh's legacy but the legacy of other leaders like Yashwant Singh and Ramlal Thakur also that we should be taking forward. The party is bigger than anything." 

The other leading contender for the post of Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Mukesh Agnihotri, was on Sunday sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister. This is the first time that Himachal has got a deputy chief minister.

The names of Sukhu and Agnihotri were finalised by the Congress leadership following deliberations with the MLAs over two days amid hectic lobbying by aspirants. This came after Congress MLAs convened a meeting in Shimla on Friday and unanimously passed a resolution authorising the Congress president to pick the legislature party leader after the three leaders reached the venue with their supporters who raised slogans in their favour.

Sukhu's humble background

Son of a road transport corporation driver, Sukhu had a modest beginning and used to run a milk counter at Chhota Shimla in his early days. Rising through the ranks, he was a relentless fighter and remained the party's state unit president for a record six years during 2013-19 despite being frequently at loggerheads with Virbhadra Singh.

Sukhu is the first Congress leader from Lower Himachal, comprising areas merged in Himachal in 1966 such as Nalagarh, Una, Hamirpur, Kangra and lower hills of Kullu, to occupy the top post. He is the second chief minister from Hamirpur district after BJP's Prem Kumar Dhumal.

Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu was sworn in as the state's new CM on Sunday. Sukhu was the Himachal Pradesh Congress Campaign Committee chairman in the recently concluded assembly elections in which Congress defeated the Jairam Thakur-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. 

Sukhu's election to the top office is also expected to send out a clear message from the party -- that the era of dynastic politics and hereditary privileges is over. Earlier in the run-up to the assembly polls, the BJP had taken repeated jibes at the Congress with Union minister Amit Shah saying that Mr Sukhu won't get the post as he is not "the son or daughter of somebody."