Rakesh Lohumi, Tribune News Service
Shimla, December 22. PCC chief Virbhadra Singh is set to take over as Chief Minister of the hill state for the sixth time with the Congress president Sonia Gandhi approving his name for the top post.
Earlier, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) adopted a one-line resolution authorising the party supremo Sonia Gandhi to decide the leader. Virbhadra Singh moved the resolution and Vidya Stokes and Kaul Singh, the two other contenders seconded it. Besides the two observers deputed by the high command, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit and AICC general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi, in charge of the party affairs in the state Birender Chaudhary was also present in the meeting.
The observers talked to Sonia Gandhi on telephone and she told them to ascertain the views of individual MLAs and report back to her. The observers met the individual members, which took about three hours, after which they apprised her of the majority views and she cleared the name of Virbhadra Singh.
The meeting started late as Dixit could not take a flight to Chandigarh due to fog and had to take a chopper to reach Shimla. However, Dwivedi, who had arrived in the morning, met a majority of legislators before the meeting. Senior leader from Kangra G S Bali, who was hospitalised in Delhi, and Ram Kumar, the Doon MLA, who has been booked by Panchkula police in murder case, did not attend the meeting.
The numbers were in favour of Virbhadra Singh who had the support of about two dozen legislators. However, his rivals led by former minister backed the candidature of Vidya Stokes in a last-ditch effort to stall him from becoming the Chief Minister for the sixth time. They were earlier supporting Kaul Singh.
As Union Minister Anand Sharma was reluctant to join the race, they propped up the name of Dhani Ram Shandil, who is a member of Congress Working Committee and has good rapport with the high command. It had led to an interesting situation as Stokes herself has been supporting Virbhadra Singh for the top post all through.
There was hectic activity throughout the day with supporters of Virbhadra Singh converging on his residence Holly Lodge. However, Stokes remained at her residence but the two leaders were in touch. A large crowd assembled at the Vidhan Sabha Complex where the meeting was held. Expecting that leader will be declared today, the supporters anxiously waited for the meeting to be over to know the outcome. However, they were disappointed after they came to know to that a single line resolution has been passed.