Virbhadra eyes Himachal Pradesh chief minister’s post

By Prashant Sood, IANS,

New Delhi : Exuding confidence of victory, a day ahead of counting of votes cast in the Himachal Pradesh assembly polls, Congress leader Virbhadra Singh Wednesday hoped the choice of chief minister would be made in keeping with the wishes of the people.

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The five-time chief minister who spearheaded the Congress poll campaign in the hill state told IANS that he was willing to serve for another term.

He said: “People are clear who should be chief minister if the Congress comes to power. I am sure a decision will be taken as per wishes of people.”

“I am an MP. If the party wants to draft me, I am prepared for that,” Virbhadra Singh said.

Virbhadra Singh, the Lok Sabha member from Mandi, was appointed Himachal Pradesh Congress president weeks before the Nov 4 polling to bolster the party’s electoral prospects.

The Congress has maintained that a decision on the Himachal chief minister would be taken by the central leadership in consultation with the newly elected legislators.

Congress general secretary Birender Singh, who oversees party affairs in Himachal Pradesh, told IANS: “We will take MLAs into confidence and the high command will decide the chief minister.”

Besides Virbharda Singh, former state Congress chief Kaul Singh aspires for the post.

Counting of ballots in the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat assembly polls will take place Thursday.

Most exit polls have given the Congress an edge in Himachal Pradesh but said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also could be within the striking distance for government formation.

Virbhadra Singh told IANS the Congress would win with a “comfortable majority” in Himachal Pradesh.

“People are tired of the BJP’s non-performance”, and Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had not been able to carry forward development, the septugenarian leader said.

The BJP’s campaign about discrimination by the central government against the state has not found any takers as the state could not fully utilise the grant sent to it, he said.

Asked if the central government’s decision to put a cap of six on subsidised LPG gas cylinders a year per household impacted the Congress’s prospects in the state, Virbhadra Singh said he promised to provide three more subsidised cylinders per family.

“A small family can make do with nine (subsidised) cylinders,” he said.

Virbhadra Singh resigned from union cabinet June this year after a Himachal Pradesh court formally framed corruption charges against him.

He said his resignation should not be seen as an admission of guilt and he would fight the case to the end.