The induction of Himachal Pradesh BJP leader Jagat Prakash Nadda in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ministry has come as double whammy for two-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
Nadda's induction in the union cabinet in its first expansion and his growing clout in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could pave the way for his chief ministership in the 2017 assembly elections.
Political observers feel Nadda's induction as cabinet minister has come a double blow for Dhumal.
"On the one hand he has failed to get a berth in the cabinet for his three-time MP son Anurag Thakur, on the other Nadda's proximity with the party's top leadership will definitely give him an edge over Dhumal when it comes to bringing the party back to power in the next assembly elections," an observer told IANS.
"More important, Nadda so far is a clean face of the BJP," he added.
Both Dhumal and Thakur, who heads the BJP youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morch (BJYM) and is projected as a youth leader, are facing a trial in a Dharamsala court.
Dhumal has been accused of favouring his son, who is president of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), in allotment of land to the cricket body for constructing a plush residential complex for players near its stadium in Dharamsala during his regime as chief minister (2007-12).
A senior BJP leader said Nadda was forced to resign as forest minister in 2010 owing to differences between him and then chief minister Dhumal.
At that time he joined then BJP president Nitin Gadkari's team and was made the party's national general secretary. At that time he had told reporters he was "leaving the state politics with a heavy heart".
"In the past four years, Nadda carved his own space in the central leadership with his astute organisational skills. Since Amit Shah took over as the party chief, he has been his most trusted man," said the leader, who wished not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.
Nadda, a Rajya Sabha member, was also among those who were mentioned as likely to be the BJP chief after then party chief Rajnath Singh was inducted into the Modi government as the home minister.
In the parliamentary elections, Nadda played an important role in his home state Himachal and helped the party win all the four seats even though a Congress government was in office.
Hailing Nadda's induction into the union cabinet, a statement by state BJP leaders, including Thakur and state chief Satpal Satti, said now the development in the state would get a big boost.
Nadda won his first assembly election from Bilaspur (Sadar) in Himachal in 1993. In 1998, he again won from that seat and became the health minister.
He lost the assembly elections in 2003, but again won in 2007 and was appointed the forest minister.
Born Dec 2, 1960, Nadda did his graduation from Patna in Bihar and holds a post-graduate degree in political science and LL.B. from Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla.
Starting his political career in 1978 as a student leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Nadda had also worked both with Gadkari and Shah even in the Bharatiya Yuva Morcha - from 1991 to 1994.