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No CM face; in Himachal, Cong takes matters into his own hands: Sukhvinder Sukhu to News18

Mood in the mountains


It promises to be the most exciting hillside election campaign in recent times. With multiple rallies by PM Narendra Modi, the BJP has got off to a flying start. Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP started off strong but has recently shifted much of its focus to Gujarat. The congressional campaign rests on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s shoulders, but has yet to get underway. News18 travels across the state to gauge public sentiment and political strategies ahead of the 2022 Himachal Pradesh elections.

Congress will go to Himachal Pradesh election polls without nominating a prime ministerial candidate. The chairman of the party’s state unit election committee, Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, said Congress will instead enter the election with his “haath ka nishaan” (hand symbol).

With the death of veteran leader Virbhadra Singh, the party is staring at a leadership vacuum in the election-bound state. However, Congressional leaders say his absence will not weaken the chances of a victory.

“We should not make a person bigger than the organization and we should think the same for other states. It is an organization that must remain supreme,” said Sukhu, a three-time congressman from the Nadaun constituency.

In response to a question about who could be the CM candidate under the current fate, Sukhu hinted at his own candidacy.

“Virbhadra Singh had been the chairman of the Election Commission and after him I had the chance to become the chairman. People know who heads the election commission. There is an aptitude test before you become a CM,” added the former party state chief.

Priyanka Gandhi takes lead in Himachal

Four meetings of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have been completed by the Congress so far. Sukhu stated that there will also be district-level meetings. “People are excited that Priyanka ji is taking the lead. She also has a house in Himachal. The state was formed by her grandmother and she loved the people of Himachal Pradesh,” he said.

Does he believe that Rahul Gandhi should also come to Himachal and make time for the Bharat Jodo Yatra? “During elections, such movements have no impact. If he can get time from Bharat Jodo Yatra, he can do the rally too. He is a political person,” Sukhu said.

Congress believes the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has lost steam in the state. “In Himachal, three parties are fighting against elections: one is the BJP, the second is Congress and then a third party (be it AAP or CPI-M). The third party gets 5% of the vote. There are two other invisible parties: one is with the BJP, the other with Congress. They also get 3 percent votes. The constituencies where these invisible parties get more votes benefit from their main party. AAP also falls into the category of that 5 percent share,” said Sukhu.

Over internal feuds and rifts within the party with two of its working presidents joining the BJP, Sukhu claimed that the working presidents are simply leaders being groomed to be next-generation leaders.

“They can’t hold rallies and the strongest units are bloc-level organizations. We don’t give too much importance to working presidents because it’s an exercise to nurture leadership. They (working presidents who have left Congress) were also first. There is no group in Congress. It is a story created by the BJP,” he said.

promises

Strengthening the rural economy appears to be a major focus of the party. Congress says it will buy 10 kg of milk and manure from livestock farmers. “We will implement 10 guarantee schemes such as 300 units of free electricity for 18 lakh families of Himachal Pradesh, benefits for women over 18, starter schemes for young people, old pension schemes for government employees,” said Sukhu, who believes unemployment, corruption , inflation and deaths during the Covid outbreak are among the topics that Congress will address.

The MLA said Himachal’s politics are different from other states. He believes that instead of large gatherings, it is crucial to hold small meetings and gatherings to reach the voters.

An excavation at BJP’s twin-engine Sarkar

“It is not the first time that a twin-engine government has been introduced. Congress also had a twin-engine ki Sarkar in the past. The Prime Minister has come to Himachal Pradesh for the tenth time, but has he given the state a special grant? He calls Himachal his second home but he only cares about Gujarat. The BJP will not be given a consecutive term,” the congress leader added.

The tracks on which the Vande Bharat Express runs were built during the time of Congress, he said.

“In 2017, the prime minister had said he hadn’t seen a railway in 40 years. Why didn’t he extend it? Anurag Thakur should have done the inauguration today,” Sukhu said.

‘Inheritance of Congress, not of Virbhadra’

Speaking of the Congress having a leadership vacuum after Virbhadra Singh, Sukhu said “ideology never dies”. “There had been three by-elections and one Lok Sabha election and we won them all. Even then Virbhadra Singh had passed away. The people of Himachal do not believe in a personality cult,” he said.

On Pratibha Singh’s legacy, he said that she became the president of the state unit because she is a Member of Parliament and has to tour all over the state. “There was no inheritance and legacy of what? It is a legacy of Congress and not of any particular person,” he added.

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