SHIMLA: Congress has appointed former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadhra Singh’s wife and Mandi MP Pratibha Singh as the new president of the party’s state unit.
Pratibha has replaced Kuldeep Rathore, whose appointment as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief had come as a surprise for many. Rathore was initially seen a close aide of former Union commerce minister Anand Sharma, whose term as Rajya Sabha MP and deputy leader of the Upper House ended earlier this month.
The party has retained Mukesh Agnihotri as the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly.
In other changes ahead of the state Assembly elections due in December, the Congress has appointed three working presidents — MLAs Pawan Kajal, Rajinder Rana and Vinay Kumar.
Former PCC president and Nadaun MLA Sukhwinder Sukhu is chosen as the head of the election campaign committee.
Outgoing PCC chief Rathore, under whose leadership the Congress had dealt a major blow to the ruling BJP in the crucial bypolls in three Assembly and one Lok Sabha seats last year, is learnt to have been assured of ticket from his home constituency Theog.
Pratibha had started asserting herself ever since her win from Mandi in 2021 bypoll, staking claim to be the top party leader in the state on the basis of her late husband’s legacy. She had made her intentions known when she announced party leader Chet Ram as the Congress candidate from Seraj constituency in Mandi district, a seat represented by CM Jai Ram Thakur in the Assembly.
She then declared the candidature of Champa Thakur, daughter of former minister and ex-PCC chief Kaul Singh Thakur, from Mandi (Sadar) constituency. The seat is currently represented by party’s turncoat leader and rebel BJP MLA Anil Sharma.
Veteran leader Virbhadra Singh was also known to exert pressure on the high command to have his way. On several occasions, he got incumbent PCC chiefs replaced on the eves of Assembly elections.