"I Can Lead As Chief Minister": Virbhadra Singh's Wife Pratibha To NDTV

Pratibha Singh, the chief of the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, said the elections were fought and won in the name of her husband Virbhadra Singh, who died last year, and it would be "a disaster" to sideline his family.

Pratibha Singh is the chief of the Congress in Himachal Pradesh.

Shimla:

Hours before the Congress's big meeting to decide on its Chief Minister for Himachal Pradesh, a state it won yesterday, a top leader staked her claim to the job with a sharp reminder for the leadership in Delhi.

Pratibha Singh, the chief of the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, said the elections were fought and won in the name of her husband Virbhadra Singh, who died last year, and it would be "a disaster" to sideline his family.

"I think I can lead the state as the Chief Minister since Sonia ji and the High Command gave me the responsibility to lead the party ahead of the elections. They should command me to take over as Chief Minister and I will do that work too with dignity and to the best of my responsibility," Pratibha Singh told NDTV.

"Virbhardra Singh's family played a major role in this victory. The election was fought and won in the name of Virbhadra Singh. We won 40 seats only because people have a strong emotional connect with Virbhadra Singh," she asserted.

"It was his name, it is his photograph on all the posters, his work - people are emotionally attached to him. They cannot neglect this factor and sideline his family and say we will think of somebody else. This will be another disaster."

Top Congress leaders are meeting with newly elected Congress MLAs in Shimla to decide on the Chief Minister.

Virbhadra Singh, a former Chief Minister, was the Congress's tallest leader in Himachal Pradesh until he died last year.

Pratibha Singh was elected Lok Sabha MP from his constituency Mandi. She did not contest the state election but her son Vikramaditya Singh did.

"There will be many claimants to the post of Chief Minister and the high command's decision is the final one, but Virbhadra's legacy cannot be neglected," Pratibha Singh said.

In a hint that the Congress could face massive trouble and fissures in its Himachal unit, she added: "We have to keep our flock together and the Chief Minister will be decided soon, things will be much clearer in today's meeting."

There are three other contenders besides her - former state chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, Mukesh Agnihotri, the leader of the Congress legislature party in the outgoing assembly, and Harshwardhan Chauhan - which is why the party feared BJP's "Operation Lotus", code for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party getting MLAs to switch loyalties to topple opposition governments.

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