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The Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections results were declared on 8 December Thursday and the Indian National Congress emerged as the majority party, set to form the government in the hilly state for the next five years. However, the Congress party is yet to decide on the chief ministerial candidate. The grand old party has scheduled a party meet for Friday evening when all party members will authorise Mallikarjun Kharge to elect a chief minister for Himachal Pradesh. 

At such a juncture it is important to note that former chief minister and royalty of the hilly state, Virbhadra Singh's wife Pratibha Singh is considered a key frontrunner for the chief minister's post, closely followed by former party chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu and outgoing CLP leader Mukesh Agnihotri.

Deciding on the chief ministerial face who can bind the party going forward is the immediate challenge for the Congress.

The name of Jawali MLA and a Congress veteran, Chander Kumar, is also doing rounds in case the party high command prefer an OBC candidate. Despite a sizeable presence, the chances of a Dalit chief minister are rare as the politics in Himachal is dominated by the upper caste Rajputs and Brahmins. Dr Dhani Ram Shandil is among the strongest Dalit leaders.

Here's looking at the profiles of the CM frontrunners from Congress in Himachal Pradesh

Pratibha Singh, President Himachal Congress, Lok Sabha MP

Himachal Pradesh Congress chief, Lok Sabha MP from Mandi, Partibha Virbhadra Singh is the strongest contender to become the next chief minister of Himachal Pradesh. 

Wife of former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh Virbhadra Singh, and a member of royal household in the hilly state, Pratibha Singh was made president of the state unit of Congress on 26 April 2022. 

The 66 year old started her political career in 1998 and was in a win and defeat with BJP throughout her career. 

Singh's supporters in Himachal on Friday blocked cars of senior Congress leaders in Shimla demanding that she be made the next chief minister. Singh had defeated Jai Ram Thakur of BJP by a huge margin of 1.39 lakh votes in 2013 and then managed to win Mandi Lok Sabha byelection in 2021 when there was a BJP government in the state.

Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, Nadaun, Hamirpur

The 58 year old politician who was elected to the state assembly for a record fifth time, on Thursday defeated Vijay Agnihotri of the BJP by a margin of 3363 votes.. Sukhu is the second most favoured candidate for the CM post in Himachal Pradesh 

He had started his career as a student leader. Sukhu was made Head of the Congress Campaign committee by the Grand old party's top command. 

Sukhu is opposed to Pratibha Singh's candidature as she is not an elected MLA. 

Mukesh Agnihotri, Haroli , Una

Journalist turned politician Mukesh Agnihotri, a Bramhin, as opposed to Rajput Pratibha Singh and Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, he is believed to be closer to Priyanka Vadra and Sonia Gandhi.   

Agnihotri won his fifth assembly election. He was once a supporter of Vir Bhadra Singh. He started his political career in 2003 by contesting assembly election on a Congress ticket. He was also inducted as a cabinet minister by the then Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh in 2012. He became leader of Opposition in 2017 when Congress was dethroned by the BJP.

Chander Kumar, Jawali, Kangra

Chander Kumar is a Congress veteran who remained a cabinet minister a record five times. Chander Kumar has won Jawali assembly constituency which is part of Kangra district.

He can be made a chief minister in case there is no consensus on the names of Pratibha Singh, Sukhwinder Sinh Sukhu or Mukesh Agnihotri.

Vikramaditya Singh, Shimla (Rural)

Son of former Himachal CM Later Virbhadra Singh and HPCC Chief Pratibha Singh, Vikramaditya Singh has been elected as a member of state assembly second time from Shimla rural assembly constituency.

The only second royalty to have charmed his way into the heatrs of voters of Himachal Pradesh, Vikramaditya is a possible contender for deputy chief minister in the state. 

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