No challenge from Pratibha; Rajeev Shukla will make cabinet: Himachal CM Sukhu

| Updated: 12 December, 2022 3:37 am IST

Congress leader and four time MLA Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu after much internal deliberations and amid fears of factionalism in the party, emerged as the popular choice to take over as the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. His grand oath taking ceremony on Sunday wore a carnival like look at the Ridge Ground in Shimla. Party workers beamed with pride that for the first departing from the reign of giants like Virbhadra popularly known as “rajaji”, a foot soldier of the party was taking over the top position in the state

But it wasn’t an easy fight for Sukhu. Defeating BJP, which continued its strategy of projecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s work at the state level, was still an easier task. The factionalism riddled Himachal unit, and the issue of who would eventually lead this divided pack was going to be the real hurdle to cross.

It took a few days and several rounds of parleys for Sukhu to be declared the favourite for the position. Yet, there is much trepidation if the show of unity and peace at the oath-taking ceremony is merely the lull before the storm. There are reports of  brewing tension between the Congress high command and the family of Raja Sahib (Virbhadra Singh) over ‘sidelining’ Pratibha Singh and son Vikramaditya Singh. In an exclusive interview to The New Indian’s Assistant Editor the new CM dismissed any challenge from any other faction and said that Congress would soon deliver its promise of restoring the Old Pension Scheme – an emotive issue which played a huge role in delivering Himachal to Congress.

Excerpts from the interview.

When your name was announced yesterday, you became very emotional. Today you took the oath as the CM. Your wife, your mother and daughters were also there. What kind of an experience was it? 

Certainly, my family is very happy. They are elated. This is also a one-time experience for them. We come from a humble family. It makes my mother proud that despite coming from a regular family, her son became the CM of the state.

You made several promises when you went to polls like restoring the Old Pension Scheme and giving Rs 1500 to women of age 18-60 among your 10 guarantees. When will be the first cabinet? And which decisions are on your priority list? 

Cabinet will be formed by Rajiv Shukla, Himachal Congress in-charge. The moment the cabinet is formed, we will take a decision on OPS.

You went to an orphanage today? What is the scheme on orphanages? 

Yes, I am in consultation with my team to bring a scheme for orphans in which all the needs of an orphan child – right from when they are born to their education will be taken care of.

Congress has won 40 seats here and BJP fought on national issues. What do you think are the issues which clicked for Congress? 

The difference between the issues raised by BJP and Congress is that we went to people with local issues, while BJP campaigned around national issues. We raised the issue of admission in Police, we raised the issue of Agniveer. We spoke about price rise and unemployment. People resonated with these issues and thus voted for us.

It is being said that Pratibha Singh is not very happy with you becoming CM. Is factionalism within Congress going to be a problem? 

There is no challenge whatsoever. In politics we do not overtly say everything. On this issue, I can assure that there will be no problems.

When will the cabinet be formed? 

That’s a decision for Rajeev Shukla to take. He is in a better position to talk about it.

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