Cong. appoints new chief in Himachal to end factionalism
Strategic move also with an eye on the Lok Sabha poll
To put an end to infighting among its top leadership in Himachal Pradesh, the Congress central leadership had appointed Kuldeep Singh Rathore as its State chief earlier this week.
This is seen as an attempt to end factionalism, besides striking a regional and caste balance in the State leadership, ahead of the 2019 Parliamentary election.
Congress had lost all four parliamentary seats — Mandi, Shimla, Kangra and Hamirpur — in the 2014 poll to the BJP. Factionalism within the party was considered one of the reasons for the humiliating loss.
Later in the 2017 Assembly poll, the Congress was reduced to 21 seats in the 68member State Assembly. It also lost the Shimla Municipal Corporation election in June 2017, which it ruled for nearly 26 years. Clamour within the party to replace the State chief had been gaining momentum since then.
All India Congress Committee President Rahul Gandhi on January 10 cleared the name of 55-yearold Kuldeep Rathore as the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president, replacing Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu. Mr. Rathore, who hails from Kumarsain in Shimla district, is the first non-MLA to head the State unit. Former Chief Minister and senior leader Virbhadra Singh had been at the forefront demanding the removal of Mr. Sukhu amid strong differences between them.
Mr. Rathore, considered close to former Union Minister Anand Sharma, also had the backing of Virbhadra Singh and Mukesh Agnihotri — leader of the Opposition in the Assembly — besides other senior leaders, including Vidya Stokes, Dhani Ram Shandil, Viplov Thakur and Asha Kumari.
Rajni Patil, in-charge of party affairs in Himachal Pradesh and Rajya Sabha member told :“He was the only candidate who had the backing of all the factions of the State unit, and everyone supported him. Also, with his appointment, regional representation from the upper Himachal area has been given in the State leadership.”
He was the only candidate who had the backing of all the factions Rajni Patil In-charge o f party affairs in Himachal
The Hindu Apple belt balance
“By putting Mr. Rathore at the helm, the party has attempted to strike a regional balance in its State leadership. With Mukesh Agnihotri, MLA from Una, as its leader in the State Assembly, and now with Mr. Rathore as HPCC chief, the party has given a representation to the upper Himachal region — the politically significant ‘Apple belt’,” said Bhawani Singh, senior assistant professor, Himachal Pradesh University.
Moreover, Mr. Rathore’s appointment balances the caste equation as he represents the Rajput community, while Mr. Agnihotri is a Brahmin.