Shimla, Dec 9 (IANS) A day after getting majority in the 68-member legislative assembly, 40 Congress lawmakers will meet in the state capital on Friday in the presence of party's state in-charge Rajeev Shukla and special observer and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel to nominate the legislative party leader.
State party president Pratibha Singh, former party chief Sukhwinder Sukhu and Mukesh Agnihotri are considered key frontrunners for the chief minister's post.
At the meeting, a decision will be taken to authorise Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge to finalise the name of the legislative party leader.
The Congress on Thursday got an absolute majority in the Assembly elections, winning 40 seats - six more than the half-way mark of 34, while the outgoing BJP was reduced to 25.
Acknowledging the adverse mandate, outgoing Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, under whose leadership the BJP went to the polls, told the media here: 'I respect the people's mandate and I want to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Central government for their invaluable support during the past five years. We will stand for the development of the state irrespective of politics. We will also analyse our shortcomings and improve during the next term.'
Thakur, who was banking on Prime Minister Modi's charisma, submitted his resignation to the Governor, who accepted it.
Many other outgoing ministers, including Suresh Bhardwaj, Ram Lal Markanda, Sarveen Chaudhary, Rakesh Pathania, Govind Thakur, Virender Kanwar and Rajiv Saizal, lost the election.
Three Independents, comprising two BJP rebels and one Congress, emerged victorious.
Himachal Pradesh has not voted any incumbent government back to power since 1985.
Considering the family legacy and contribution, Congress state unit chief Pratibha Singh had sought votes in the assembly polls on development carried out by her husband Virbhadra Singh during his six terms as the Chief Minister.
Pratibha Singh, who has not contested the Assembly polls, missed no opportunity to remind the electorate that the victory in assembly election 'will be a tribute to him (Virbhadra Singh)'.
'Not only the Congress supporters but also from other parties voted for us as a tribute for Virbhadra Singh,' she said. She won the Mandi seat in the 2021 Lok Sabha bypoll.
Well-ahead of the Assembly polls, the Congress had appointed the three-time MP as the state unit president.
Singh had spearheaded the poll campaign on the legacy of Virbhadra Singh, never missing an opportunity to remind voters for development and work initiated by her late husband.
She banked on the party's promise to bring back the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) that will benefit 225,000 employees, a crucial vote bank.
Reposing faith in the party legislators, Pratibha Singh told the media: 'People have given us the mandate. We can meet (our MLAs) anywhere, including Chandigarh or in the state. Those who have won will be with us and we will form the government.'