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Himachal’s new chief minister Sukhvinder Sukhu says ‘had nothing to do with’ cabinet formation

Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, the new chief minister of Himachal Pradesh who was sworn in earlier today, disagrees that the state unity of Congress is torn apart by factionalism. “The lobbying is there, but there is no factionalism in the Himachal Congress… It was a BJP narrative,” he told NDTV in an exclusive interview. Even so, he made it clear that he would have nothing to do with forming the government. It would be a “challenge for Rajiv Shukla (Congress Leader for Himachal Pradesh), he will make all the decisions”, he said.

Mr Sukhu, who came from a modest background but rose through the ranks of Congress, was chosen as chief minister on the claims of Pratibha Singh and Mukesh Agnihotri – the wife and protegee of the six-time chief minister of Himachal , Virbhadra Singh, a former Royal. The party is expected to strike a balance by offering Pratibha Singh and his son Vikramaditya Singh key government or party seats. Mukesh Agnihotri was sworn in today as Deputy Chief Minister.

Sources said Mr Sukhu, 58, had the support of more than half of the congressmen in the state.

But his election was also meant to send a message – that dynastic politics and inherited privileges are on the way out in Congress, dovetailing with the election of Mallikarjun Kharge to the party’s top job.

His selection was also a rebuff for the BJP, which has been mocked in Congress. Ahead of the elections, Union Minister Amit Shah had said Mr Sukhu would not get the job because he is not “anyone’s son or daughter”.

Mr Sukhu, whose father was a bus driver, had once sold milk and started his political journey as a student leader. In time, he rose to be part of the Rahul Gandhi team.

“I come from a very humble background, it’s a proud moment that a man like me has been appointed chief minister,” he told NDTV Today. “It is a happy moment that a Congress worker had this opportunity. I thank Congress and the Gandhi family for this,” he added.

Asked about the legacy of Virbhadra Singh, the party’s best-known face in the state, Mr Sukhu, who counted the six-time chief minister among his political rivals, said: “We will carry forward the legacy of Congress. It is not only Virbhadra Singh’s legacy but the legacy of other leaders like Yashwant Singh and Ramlal Thakur too that we should carry forward.The party is bigger than anything.


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