Newly elected Congress MLAs met here on Friday and unanimously passed a resolution authorising the party president to pick the legislature party leader, who will be the next Himachal Pradesh chief minister.
Ahead of the Congress legislature party meeting, chief minister hopefuls Pratibha Singh, Mukesh Agnihotri and Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu reached the party office in state capital Shimla along with their supporters, who raised slogans in their favour.
The Congress wrested power from the Bharatiya Janata Party in the hill state winning 40 of the 68 assembly seats. The polling was held on November 12 and the results were declared Thursday.
Addressing the media after the legislature party meeting, AICC in-charge for Himachal Pradesh Rajeev Shukla said the one-line resolution was passed unanimously and the party's observers would submit their report to its high command on Saturday.
Refuting that there is factionalism within the Congress party as several leaders were lobbying for the chief minister's post, Shukla said no name came forward for the post of the legislature party leader and the MLAs unanimously decided that the party leadership would take the call.
He said the Congress was happy at the opportunity to form the government in the state and asserted it would do everything to fulfil the 10 guarantees it gave to the people and provide better governance.
Stating that the entire Congress party respects former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, Shukla parried the questions on the possibility of the state getting its first woman chief minister or the top post being represented by a leader from lower Himachal.
Shukla was flanked by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and former chief minister of Haryana Bhupinder Singh Hooda on one side and Pratibha Singh and Sukhu on the other.
Earlier, as the party's central observers -- Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and former chief minister of Haryana Bhupinder Singh Hooda -- worked to find a consensus candidate, a group of supporters of Pratibha Singh, the state party chief and wife of former CM Virbhadra Singh, blocked their vehicle and raised slogans in her support.
It happened as the central observers, along with Shukla, were going to meet Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar. The central leaders submitted a list of the party's winning MLAs to the governor and "sought time" to formally stake claim to form the government.
In Delhi, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the observers sent to the hill state were seeking the individual views of all party legislators and they would convey to him their opinions, based on which the party will take a decision on the chief ministerial candidate.
The Congress Legislature Party meeting was scheduled to begin at 3 pm but was delayed as several MLAs could not reach Shimla from far-away places earlier.
Speaking to media-persons ahead of the CLP meeting, Congress leader Sukhu said, "I am not a chief minister aspirant. I am just a Congress worker and whatever decision the high command would take would be accepted."
Earlier in the day, Pratibha Singh, 66, has indicated that she is in the running for the chief minister's post, a point also made by her son.
"I am not in the race for the top post but my mother is one of the contenders for the post of chief minister," her son and Congress MLA from Shimla Rural, Vikramaditya Singh, told PTI.
"A meeting of all winning MLAs has been convened and the final decision would be taken by the high command which would be acceptable to all," he added.
Vikramaditya Singh told reporters that "the collective will of MLAs will be kept in mind and then observers will convey the same to the high command".
Replying to a question, Singh said, "Whatever the high command decides will be acceptable to all of us."
"Post is not important for us. What is important is the promises we made to people. We have to fulfil them and we are committed to that," he said.
He said the government will be formed in two-three days.
Former state chief of the party Sukhu and outgoing legislature party leader Mukesh Agnihotri are also believed to among the frontrunners for the chief minister's post.
Senior Haryana Congress leader Karan Singh Dalal, who was part of the Congress delegation which met the governor, told PTI that they gave the list and told him, "We have come to seek your time to present our credentials to form government in the state. The party has won the assembly polls with a majority."
The Congress observers and Shukla also met Pratibha Singh at a hotel.
Shukla had on Thursday said the Congress was happy that it is getting an opportunity to form the government in the state and asserted that the party will do everything to fulfil the 10 guarantees made to the people of the state and would provide better governance to people.
"The newly elected Congress MLAs would meet in Shimla on Friday post-election results and decide on electing the new legislature party leader," Shukla had told PTI on Thursday.