NEW DELHI: The pro CM Virbhadra Singh camp in Himachal Pradesh Congress is hopeful that vice president Rahul Gandhi will clear the air over who will lead the party ahead of the coming assembly polls.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is locked in a bitter power struggle with state unit chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and had recently threatened not to fight the polls if the latter was not replaced.
Rahul, who will complete his three-day Amethi tour on October 6, will address a poll rally in Mandi area of the hill state on October 7.
The fact that Rahul agreed to launch the party’s poll campaign from Mandi, the home turf of Virbhadra Singh, has given hopes to the pro-CM camp that Congress vice president may make an announcement in his speech.
“We hope Rahulji’s rally will set the tone for the coming polls and the return of the Congress,” Asha Kumari, Himachal Pradesh lawmaker, told The New Indian Express.
Last month, Virbhadra, who has been chief minister for six terms, had openly revolted saying he be given the charge to steer the Himachal Congress ahead of the polls. As many 27 of the 36 party lawmakers had supported the CM.
AICC sources said following the threat, Rahul held a meeting with Virbhadra on September 29. Later, the chief minister held a separate meeting with AICC general secretary in charge of Himachal Pradesh affairs Sushil Kumar Shinde and discussed ways to curb infighting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s political adviser Ahmed Patel.
Former AICC general secretary in charge of HP Ambika Soni had also tried to broker peace between Virbhadra and Sukhu but in vain. Shinde was brought in after Ambika gave up the charge citing ill-health.
Acknowledging the Congress had gone on a back foot for a while as infighting in the state unit became public, Virbhadra’s recent remarks that the leadership issue was a closed chapter has given further hope to his supporters that AICC may finally rein in Sukhu.
During his speech Rahul is expected to hit back at PM Modi, who recently attacked the Congress party for being out on bail, said party insiders.
Defending Virbhadra, who is facing a slew of corruption charges, sources said the allegations won’t impact the Congress’ prospects against an aggressive BJP in the coming polls.