With the battle over portfolios of the nine newly-inducted cabinet ministers and three chief parliamentary secretaries intensifying, former Himachal Congress president Kaul Singh Thakur and senior leader Asha Kumari met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Wednesday reportedly to seek the high command’s intervention in resolving the crisis.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh in Shimla had denied any tussle or lobbying by ministers, saying that portfolios will be allocated very soon. He later left for New Delhi to attend a meeting of the National Integration Council presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He is scheduled to be in Delhi for at least two days, during which, he is likely to discuss the portfolio issue with central leaders.
According to sources, though Virbhadra had already decided on allocation of portfolios before his swearing in, but with a few ministers insisting on some choicest departments, the list was put on hold. A few leaders had allegedly told central leaders that less important portfolios were being given to Virbhadra detractors.
Objections have mainly come from two leaders — Kaul Singh Thakur and G S Bali — hailing from important districts of Mandi and Kangra, respectively. Both have reportedly asked for key portfolios. While the Congress has won 10 out of 15 seats in Kangra, it has increased its tally by one seat in Mandi. But it was Thakur who had thrown his hat in the ring for the chief Ministerial post and opposed Virbhadra’s name.
Thakur, who claims to have support of a few MLAs, rushed to Delhi after the oath ceremony. He, along with Asha Kumari — a known Virbhadra detractor — met Sonia Gandhi. Asha Kumari was not keen on Virbhadra being made the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader .
“We are not asking for portfolios. We have come to congratulate Sonia Gandhi and appraise her about certain leadership issues. Nobody talked about the portfolios,” said an MLA.
Meanwhile, sources said Virbhadra has been given go head to fill up posts of the chairmen and vice-chairmen of boards and corporations in order to accommodate some leaders, who lost by narrow margins, and a few sitting MLAs.
The 12-member cabinet still has two vacancies. The post of the Speaker is also yet to be filled.