In choosing Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu as the new Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Congress has made a point: that humble origins and grassroots work can be valued over “royalty” and political lineage. It comes even as BJP’s Amit Shah, during the campaign, dug that SS Sukhu would not get the job as he is not ‘anyone’s son or daughter’.
The son of a bus driver from Hamirpur district in a remote area of the power hub, Mr Sukhu, 58, once sold milk in Shimla. He began his political career as a student leader at a college in Sanjauli near Shimla, graduating at the University of Himachal Pradesh campus polls in the 1990s; then moved up the ladder.
“A matter of pride that the son of an ordinary family will be our chief minister, thanks to our leadership,” tweeted Congress leader Anand Sharma, thanking Gandhis and party leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
Her main rival was Pratibha Singh, the state congresswoman who draws her power from the legacy of her late husband, Virbhadra Singh, a former royal minister and six-time chief minister. Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh is expected to get a prominent ministry under Mr. Sukhu.
“Your number won’t come,” Union Home Secretary Amit Shah remarked of Mr Sukhu last month at a rally in Nadaun, which Mr Sukhu won for the fourth time as Congress won 40 out of 68 state segments and ousted the BJP.
“There is no place for kings and queens in a democracy. In a democracy, you have to work for the people,” Shah said, as reported YOU. He had also pointed out how Jairam Thakur of the BJP, whom Mr Sukhu now succeeds, has no political family heritage.
— ANI (@ANI) December 10, 2022
Against Mr. Sukhu, Pratibha Singh had made a play for the top position citing the legacy of “Raja” Virbhadra Singh. But Mr Sukhu had the numbers, sources said, and his basic image convinced him even more.
Another rival, Mukesh Agnihotri, had also entered politics in the shadow of Virbhadra Singh, as a protected journalist. He will be senior deputy minister.
Sukhvinder Sukhu is among the first members of Team Rahul. He is also young by political standards; at 58, about a decade younger than Pratibha Singh, 66.
The choice of worker-turned-ruler over royal heirs fits well with Congress’s revived message of working from the grassroots – a key theme of Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. Moreover, Priyanka Gandhi, who organized 10 rallies when Rahul Gandhi chose to stick to his Yatra, also played a role, we learn.
At the national level, this move also marks a break for Congress. And this is linked to a non-Gandhi “son of the soil”, Mallikarjun Kharge, becoming the leader of the party, although the Gandhis remain the “high command”.
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