Congress removes Sukku as Himachal campaign chief, appoints Virbhadra

Manish Arya / On 2017-10-17 06:46:19

The Congress appointed Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadhra Singh as Chairman of its Campaign Committee for the November 9 assembly elections, replacing state unit chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu whose name was announced only three days back.

The move came on a day the Congress cancelled its scheduled press briefing that was to be jointly addressed by Virbhdra Singh, Sukku and party General Secretary Sushil Kumar Shinde who is incharge of party affairs in the hill state.

The move to appoint Virbhadra Singh came after he met party Vice President Rahul Gandhi in the afternoon.

Hours after the official briefing was cancelled, the party announced that Virbhadra Singh will lead the Campaign Committee.

Interestingly, the press conference was cancelled only about 45 minutes before it was to be held and no reason was given.

Soon after his name was announced, Virbhadra Singh held a press conference here and announced the launch of the state election campaign "Jawab Dega Himachal".

The Chief Minister had differences with Sukku in the past and demanded his removal as state party chief as a condition for him to take part in the Congress campaign. However, the party leadership did not accept Virbhadra Singh's condition.

The party's latest move is seen as a move to pacify the Chief Minister, seen as the party's main face and vote getter in the crucial assembly polls wherein the Congress faces a tough challenge from the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Rahul Gandhi declared Virbhadra Singh as the party's chief ministerial candidate while speaking at a rally in Himachal.

Himachal Pradesh MLA Asha Kumari, who is also AICC incharge of Punjab, has been made a member of the Pradesh Election Committee, party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi announced. The Pradesh Election Committee also met on Monday, of which Sukku is Chairman.

Virbhadra Singh rubbished differences with Sukku and said that "they are in an election mode" now and those things have been sorted.

He said the list of candidates for the assembly election was ready for screening and the central election committee's approval. Virbhdra Singh also said that "winnability will be a factor in selection of candidates".

The Chief Minister said his son Vikramaditya Singh will also contest the elections in view of his chances of winning and "there was no question of dynasty here".

Earlier, Himachal Pradesh Congress chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu was made Chairman of the party's election and campaign committees for the November 9 polls.

Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Virbhadra Singh said he was ready for an open debate with him on development.

"Modi has betrayed the country's people by not keeping his promises. The Centre has treated Himachal Pradesh in a stepmotherly manner and tried to destabilised the state. I will defeat them and am ready for the fight," the Chief Minister said.

As for corruption charges against him, he said: "These are false charges and are being levied to target my family."

Sukku, who joined the evening press conference later, said he was ready to contest elections but may look to change his constituency.

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