How Rajeev Shukla failed to read the Himachal Congress crisis

Roma R
New Update
Himachal Pradesh Minister Vikramaditya Singh with Congress leader Rajeev Shukla addresses the media, in Shimla

Himachal Pradesh Minister Vikramaditya Singh with Congress leader Rajeev Shukla addresses the media, in Shimla

New Delhi: The crisis in the Himachal Pradesh Congress is largely due to the mishandling of the party's in-charge Rajeev Shukla who is more interested in cricket affairs than organisational matters, party insiders told NewsDrum.


The discontent within the ruling party had been brewing up for many months now. Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and Himachal Congress chief Pratibha Singh have been at loggerheads ever since the party won the 2022 assembly elections and formed the government.

Sukhu was preferred over Pratibha Singh, the wife of late Congress stalwart and six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh, and also compromise candidate Mukesh Agnihotri who was strongly backed by Shukla.

The naming of Sukhu as the chief minister triggered unrest within the Himachal Pradesh Congress.


While Sukhu accommodated Virbhadra Singh's son Vikramaditya Singh in his council of ministers, he had decided not to include Rajinder Rana and Sudhir Sharma in the cabinet.

Ahead of the assembly polls, Shukla's predecessor Rajani Patil had submitted a report to the Congress leadership, informing that Sharma had been in touch with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for a ticket from Dharamshala. She requested the Congress high command not to renominate him from the constituency.

However, his political mentor and Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala urged the leadership to reconsider its decision and that he should be given the ticket, arguing that Sharma came from a strong Congress background.

Rana, who had quit the BJP to join the Congress in 2012, too had been throwing tantrums and had fallen out of favour.


Out of the six rebel legislators, Shukla had recommended the names of Devinder Kumar Bhutoo, Ravi Thakur and Chetanya Sharma and they were given the tickets.

It is well-known in the Himachal Congress circles that Shukla shares friendly relations with Union Minister Anurag Thakur and other senior BJP leaders due to his involvement in the BCCI (Board of Cricket Control in India) affairs.

Many Congress leaders had flagged his closeness to the BJP and urged the leadership to replace him. However, he continued on the post due to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's patronage. Shukla flaunts his closeness to Priyanka Gandhi.


The Congress high command had initially decided to field former party chief Sonia Gandhi for the Rajya Sabha from Himachal Pradesh but later developed cold feet due to growing dissension within the state unit and subsequently the fear that her election might be sabotaged though on the face of it, the seat was in the safe zone. This apprehension even prompted the leadership to consider Ajay Maken from Karnataka instead of Himachal Pradesh.

By now, the BJP had decided to contest the elections despite the odds stacked against it. The saffron party, in a smart move, named former Congress leader Harsh Mahajan, who had served in the grand old party for decades, as its candidate. 

As a safe bet, the Congress nominated senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi from Himachal Pradesh. Interestingly, Singhvi had been offered a Rajya Sabha berth by Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal from Delhi and also renomination by Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee from West Bengal. However, he declined both offers.


The Congress party's worst fears came true when Singhvi lost to Mahajan due to cross-voting by six rebel legislators, including Sharma and Rana.

A few days before the elections on February 27, Shukla was sent to Shimla to manage the show for Singhvi.

However, he could not read the gravity of the situation or gauge the mood of the rebels and failed to take remedial measures. Even the state intelligence agencies failed to alert the chief minister of the impending crisis. 

Shukla's failure prompted the Congress high command to rush three observers -- two former chief ministers Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Haryana) and Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh) -- and Karnataka's deputy chief minister DK Shivakumar to resolve the crisis.