New Delhi: Former BJP state unit president and five-time MLA Jairam Thakur was on Sunday chosen as the next chief minister of Himachal Pradesh by newly-elected party MLAs in Shimla. This ended nearly a week of suspense and tussle within the party for the top post since former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal – who was named by the party as its CM’s face before the polls – failed to win his own election from Sujanpur.
In the wake of the peculiar situation arising out of Dhumal’s personal defeat despite the party’s strong showing in the polls, the parliamentary board of BJP had nominated Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Narendra Singh Tomar to hold discussions with the party leaders in the state.
During the course of the discussions in Shimla, both the central observers had also witnessed protests and demonstrations by the supporters of both Dhumal and Thakur. Finally, the party prevailed upon Dhumal to withdraw his name from the race on Saturday. Today, in the state legislature party meeting, which was also attended by both the central observers, the MLAs elected Thakur, who represents Seraj near Mandi as their new leader. He is now due to take oath as chief minister on December 27.
Announcing Thakur’s elections as the next chief minister, Tomar said it was 73-year-old Dhumal who had proposed his name at the meeting and it was supported by all those present. Since along with Thakur and Dhumal, four-time MLAs Suresh Bharadwaj and Mahender Singh had also expressed their desire to be considered for the top post, the party made them formally propose Thakur’s name at the meeting.
Likewise, as the name of Union health minister J.P. Nadda was also doing the rounds for the post, Tomar later made it a point to state that, “(former BJP CM) Shanta Kumar-ji and J.P. Nadda ji also supported this proposal”.
For his part, 52-year-old Thakur, who has been the head of the state unit of the party twice and was considered the second-in-line for the CM’s post for a long time, said that: “We will deliver the promises made and will work round the clock to ensure progress and development of Himachal Pradesh.”
Stating that under him the party would leave “no stone unturned” to meet the aspirations of the people, he expressed happiness that the state was now “Congress-mukt“. The Congress, which has been dislodged this time, managed to win 21 seats, while independents had bagged two and Communist Party of India (Marxist) one.
Thakur had lobbied hard for the chief minister’s post and it is said that as it appeared that Dhumal may not win, he headed straight to Delhi to stake his claim. Right from the beginning, he was considered a strong contender for the post along with Nadda, especially since Dhumal’s loss had created a situation where still giving him the job would have meant another by-election in the state. Though Dhumal had managed to get several MLAs, including Virender Kanwar from Kutlehar, to declare that they were willing to give up their seats in his favour, this failed to impress the observers or the party central leadership.
As for Nadda, while he remained a popular choice, what went against him was the party’s overall stand that it would not send Union ministers to head the state governments. Though Nadda had canvassed hard to be projected as the CM face before the polls, with barely ten days before the elections, party president Amit Shah had announced the name of Dhumal for the top post. This was a clear sign that BJP was not keen on sending its central leaders or ministers to the states as CM.
Therefore, after the results came, it was always a direct fight between Dhumal and Thakur for the post. Apparently, Shah had also promised during an election meeting that Thakur would be given an important role in state politics once the BJP would come to power.
Thakur, who had headed the state unit of the party between 2006 and 2009, a period during which there was strong infighting in the BJP, would once again have to contend with more than a few sullen faces within.