In a setback to chief minister Virbhadra Singh, senior Congress leader and five-time Palampur MLA Brij Behari Lal Butail, who has backing of the rival camp in the Congress, is all set to become the 12th speaker of the Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly.
Butail filed his nomination papers on Tuesday. The election for the post is slated for Wednesday. His election to the post is certain as opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to follow the tradition of electing the speaker unanimously and backed Butail's candidature.
Assembly secretary Balbir Tegta told that only Butail had filed papers and the election process would be completed on Wednesday.
Three sets of nominations were filed proposing the name of Butail, which included the first nomination by chief minister Virbhadra Singh and agriculture minister Sujan Singh Pathania, the second by leader of the opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal and state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti, and the third by irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes and housing minister Sudhir Sharma.
The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) cleared Butail's name for the speaker's post after much dispute in its meeting held on Monday night.
While the chief minister proposed the name of former minister and Chintpurni MLA Kuldeep Kumar for the post, the Kaul Singh camp pushed Butail's name.
Butail's name was finalised after the meeting of chief minister Virbhadra Singh and All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and in-charge of Himachal Birender Singh on late Monday night.
However, the chief minister claimed that that there was no conflict in the Congress party over the post of speaker.
"It was unanimously decided to propose the name of Butail as speaker. The Vidhan Sabha deputy speaker would be elected during the budget session," said Singh.
He also said that the news items which appeared in some section of the press regarding the conflict were baseless and far from the facts.
Born in the family of noted freedom fighter Kanhaiya Lal Butail, septuagenarian BBL Butail, a leading tea grower, was elected to the assembly for the fifth time from Palampur.
He was first elected to the assembly in 1985 and was re-elected in 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2012. He has earlier remained a minister and political adviser to the chief minister. He will be the second speaker representing Palampur. The first was prominent OBC leader Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar in 1977 during the Janata Party regime. He is the richest legislator in the 12th assembly with his assets worth at Rs 169 crore.