Former minister Virbhadra Singh, who resigned from the Union Cabinet after charges were framed against him in a corruption case, has been made the chairman of the Congress' campaign committee for Himachal Pradesh, ahead of the assembly polls in the state.
Singh, a five time chief minister, had earlier said that his resignation should not be seen as an admission of guilt as he was going to fight the case to its logical conclusion.
All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge for the state Chaudhary Birender Singh said, "Virbhadra Singh has been appointed as chairman of the Campaign Committee. Congress will campaign in the state in a united manner."
Singh was earlier made a member in the Manifesto Committee of the party chaired by his bete noire Anand Sharma. There were reports that Singh had put his foot down, refusing to work as a member in the committee chaired by Sharma. That was before he was forced to resign as Union minister on June 26.
Singh is a veteran leader from Himachal Pradesh and there are indications that the party would be seeking to turn the crisis over his resignation into an opportunity by fielding him in the state elections.
Party leaders were guarded in their response on whether Singh is being projected as the party's chief ministerial face in Himachal Pradesh.
While Chaudhary merely said the next chief minister will be decided by the elected legislators and party president Sonia Gandhi, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari urged journalists "not to read between the lines".
"We should refrain from indulging in speculation. At present, he is the chairman of the Election Campaign Committee and that is where it stands now. I do not think there is any reason to read between the lines or down the lines. Just read the lines," Tewari said at the AICC briefing.
Tewari recalled that party general secretary and media department in-charge Janardan Dwivedi had made it clear that the court's decision to frame charges against him in the case did not mean that Singh is guilty.
"Criminal law is the same for everybody. Mere filing of charge-sheet does not make anybody guilty. Veerbhadra ji in his wisdom decided to quit as a minister. And one has to discharge many responsibilities as a party leader," he said.
"He has been the chief minister five times and a senior leader of Himachal Pradesh. The party has in its wisdom decided to appoint him in the post," Tewari said.
On the day Singh had resigned, Dwivedi had said, "We hope that he will come out clean and free from the charges and face his adversaries in Himachal Pradesh successfully."