Anti-Incumbency, Infighting Congress's Worries Ahead Of Himachal Pradesh Polls

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has been demanding the removal of HPCC chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu and a worried central leadership of Congress is busy placating its old warhorse who has steered the party in the hill state for several decades.

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Anti-Incumbency, Infighting Congress's Worries Ahead Of Himachal Pradesh Polls

Virbhadra Singh has been demanding the removal of HPCC chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu

Shimla:  The Congress is facing an uphill task in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh, with infighting and anti-incumbency emerging as the key challenges to its electoral prospects.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has been demanding the removal of HPCC chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu and a worried central leadership of Congress is busy placating its old warhorse who has steered the party in the hill state for several decades.

Just when it seemed a solution was in sight, with Virbhadra Singh getting a long-awaited audience with Congress president Sonia Gandhi last week, the AICC's general secretary for Himachal Pradesh, Sushilkumar Shinde, ruled out Mr Sukhu's removal. "There will be no change in party leadership," Mr Shinde told reporters in Chamba where he is on a four-day tour to meet district level leaders.

The Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls are due later this year.

Mr Singh has maintained that he will neither contest the polls nor lead the campaign with Mr Sukhu heading the Himachal unit.

He had earlier threatened to quit politics and told party MLAs in a recent meeting that he would not be able to work with Sukhu and withdraw from elections if the latter continues in his post.

With Mr Shinde taking a hard public stand, it remains to be seen how the chief minister will respond.

Earlier this week, Virbhadra Singh skipped a key meeting convened by Rahul Gandhi in the national capital after he came to know that the party vice president was not inclined to replace Mr Sukhu.

According to sources, the Congress wanted a "compromise formula" to placate Singh and bring him on board. The leadership feels it is too late in the day to replace Mr Sukhu.

The Himachal Pradesh chief has survived with the support of Rahul Gandhi so far, though it is learnt that Sonia Gandhi is not averse to changing him.

During the last assembly elections, Mr Singh had gotten the then HPCC chief Kaul Singh Thakur replaced. The latter had quit of his own accord in the party's interest after Virbhadra Singh similarly threatened to quit in case Thakur continues.

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