There is no infighting within the Himachal Pradesh Congress and the "conflict" was only for chief ministership as there were three-four claimants, newly sworn-in CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu has said, adding if something were wrong, there would have been a "Rajasthan-like situation".
He asserted that no Congress legislator in the state would defect to the BJP and the party's government was committed to work for the people and would fulfil the promise of restoring the old pension scheme for government employees in the first cabinet meeting.
In an exclusive interview with PTI, Sukhu said, "We have spoken to the finance secretary. Under a strategy we know from where we have to generate money and where we have to invest. We have done the work on introducing the old pension scheme and we will introduce it in the first cabinet meeting." Asked about the expansion of his cabinet, he said it will happen soon and denied reports about some MLAs lobbying for ministerial berths.
After the Congress wrested power from the BJP in the hill state winning 40 of the 68 assembly seats, the party picked Sukhu, 58, as its chief minister over some other claimants to the post, including state party chief Pratibha Singh and Mukesh Agnihotri. Sukhu, a four-time MLA from Nadaun in Hamirpur district and the son of a bus driver, was sworn in as the chief minister on December 11. Agnihotri took oath as the deputy chief minister.
The chief minister dismissed reports about infighting within the Congress state unit, but admitted that there was jockeying for the post of CM. "Conflict was for post, it's not party conflict. Three-four people were willing to occupy the post of chief minister. You can see till now we have not done the cabinet expansion. If something were wrong, a Rajasthan-like situation would have occurred," he said.
The Congress government in Rajasthan led by Ashok Gehlot faced a rebellion by his then deputy and state party president Sachin Pilot and some other MLAs in 2020. Though the Congress managed to defuse the situation then, the two factions have been at loggerheads ever since. Sukhu targeted the opposition BJP over reports that some Congress MLAs may join hands with it. "No Congress member will defect from the party," he asserted.
He said the people of the state voted against malgovernance of the BJP. He said the country is facing various issues such as unemployment and inflation but the BJP is trying to divert people's attention from the core issue by using various tactics including making mockery of Rahul Gandhi's speech. He hailed the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra and said the foot march aims to unite people and remove hate that is being spread in society in the name of religion and caste.
Sukhu credited Congress workers for the victory of the party and praised party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for framing an effective campaigning strategy. The chief minister said his government was committed to work for the welfare of the people and would fulfil the 10 promises made to the people in the run-up to the November 12 assembly elections. The poll results were announced on December 8. In its manifesto, the Congress promised to implement the old pension scheme, 30 units of free power and Rs 10 crore 'StartUp fund' in each constituency among others.