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Himachal Congress chief’s swipe at Rahul, Priyanka shows party is in disarray ahead of polls

Himachal Congress Chief Pratibha Singh has signalled her displeasure at Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi’s working style

The Congress high command decided to make sitting MP Pratibha Singh party Chief in Himachal Pradesh ahead of the polls, as she was seen as the political legatee of her husband, former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, one of the tallest leaders of the state.

However, Pratibha Singh has triggered a major controversy with her  criticism of Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi in an interview to a news portal. But this is nothing new as she has often created embarrassments for herself, and the Congress even before.

Yet many party leaders agree, on one point, that what she has said –though believed to be inadvertently – is 100 % true. It is absolutely true that neither Rahul Gandhi nor Priyanka Gandhi has time and respect for the seniors. This is the cause of growing disaffection among Congressmen.

Virbhadra Singh, too, had held almost similar views about the Congress leadership in Delhi but his stature was so high that hardly anyone could question him. Rather, he used to openly defy the party high command on certain issues and yet stay firm to rule the state on his own terms. However, that cannot be the case with Partibha Singh.

Though, in a quick-fire damage control she—acting on interventions of the party in-charge Rajeev Shukla and others, tried to make-up by saying “As an elderly person, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi are like children to me. If I say something or give advice to my children that should not be misunderstood”.

The goof-up happening just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit, has made the Congress in a precarious position as Modi is all set to take command over the poll campaign. Modi has planned at least three visits in the next few days, or before the elections are announced in Himachal Pradesh, along with Gujarat.

“The challenge is huge in front of the Congress to gather resources and leadership to counter the BJP onslaught. Our party incharge Rajeev Shukla has more interests in the BCCI than Shimla. He visits the state occasionally, lives a life of luxury and returns showing-up symbolically. Same is the case for Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bupesh Baghel, the election incharge. Deputy poll incharge Sachin Pilot has also visited for a day, so far ” a former Congress minister points-out

In comparison, the BJP has really ploughed the state mobilising its entire organisational set-up from top to bottom. The election in-charge of party vice –president Soudan Singh is camping in Shimla and touring each district closely followed-up by Devender Rana, co-incharge, who hails from Jammu.

“Elections are fought on three pillars—organisation, leadership and vision. We have all three in place as our leadership (Prime Minister Modi) and organisation are well entrenched and have a clear vision about the state and its people” says Devender Rana, who has addressed more than 100 meetings in the past 15 days.

BJP party incharge Avinash Rai Khanna –a former Punjab MP and deputy incharge Sanjay Tandon have not left the state for a single day during the past two months. BJP national incharge B L Santosh has visited the state twice, in the past two months.

In the Congress things are still hazy as to who will really be the party’s face in the elections. This is a reason for an intense battle for the Chief Ministerial post.

A former minister and five-time MLA Ram Lal Thakur, last week, has quit his vice-president post pointing that the party has no clear agenda as to how to win the election. He held a press conference to make his views public. There are half a dozen leaders in the race for Chief Ministerial post. The seniors are feeling completely ignored, side-lined  and insulated, he complained.

Former MLA Rajesh Dharmani, a AICC secretary—one of the sober faces of the party, also endorsed Ram Lal Thakur.

Adding more to this, Pratibha Singh targeted Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka, who have no time for the party leaders—the seniors. This too at a time when the Congress was in the midst of organisational elections to elect a new party president.

She went on to say “The basic problem in the Congress is that “senior leaders want attention and someone who can listen to their grievances but they [the younger lot] don’t give attention to such leaders”.

“This generation gap was addressed by Indiraji, Rajivji and Soniaji during their time, but the new generation doesn’t have patience and maturity to bridge the gap,” she was quoted as saying.

“Rahul Gandhi, who is in his fourth term as a Lok Sabha member, should learn these political manoeuvres. Had he given time to party leaders and listened to them, the Congress would have been in a much better position today,” PCC chief said.

She admitted challenges before the Congress in Himachal Pradesh: the crunch of resources and the BJP’s high-decibel campaign.

“We have declined over the years,” Pratibha Singh admitted.”.

The Congress also knows that naming its Chief Ministerial face could boomerang as there are many who could queer the pitch for the party.

Reacting to Pratibha Singh’s comments, The BJP state president Suresh Kashyap said, “ Congress ‘s house is not in order. Their own leaders are dissatisfied. The Congress party is facing deep factionalism with numerous leaders aspiring to be the Chief ministerial candidate.”

Also Read: BJP poised to reap big gain in Himachal poll as Hatti community gets tribal status