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JP Nadda, Jairam Thakur emerge as BJP favourites for Himachal CM

Though party sources say projected CM candidate PK Dhumal is not out of the running, his defeat has thrown open the leadership race and brought the spotlight on Union health minister Nadda.

india Updated: Dec 20, 2017 07:40 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Himachal election results,Himachal CM,JP Nadda
Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with Union health minister JP Nadda during the party’s campaign rally at Dhaulla Kuan in Sirmour, Himachal Pradesh, on November 2, 2017.(Ravi Kumar//HT File Photo)

Union minister JP Nadda and five-time legislator Jairam Thakur have emerged as frontrunners to be the next chief minister of Himachal Pradesh after Monday’s shock defeat of Bharatiya Janata Party’s projected CM candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal.

The BJP wrested power from the Congress, winning 44 seats in the 68-member state assembly. But the party was scrambling on Tuesday to pick a new chief minister as the 73-year-old Dhumal lost to Rajinder Singh Rana, a former protégé who had joined the Congress.

Though party sources say Dhumal is not out of the running, his defeat has thrown open the leadership race and brought the spotlight on Union health minister Nadda, a Rajya Sabha member with roots in the hill state.

Nadda’s proximity to the party leadership is viewed as a plus point for him, though several leaders believe that the BJP top brass will choose the chief minister from among its newly elected MLAs.

Thakur and several senior BJP lawmakers in the state are also in the reckoning. A former rural development and panchayati raj minister in the state, 52-year-old Thakur and is known to be close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and to BJP president Amit Shah.

“Whatever the party decides, I will do. I am happy that there is going to be a BJP government in Himachal Pradesh,” Thakur said on Tuesday.

Sources said his case becomes strong because the party may opt for a Thakur leader, the state’s dominant community. Nadda is a Brahmin.

The BJP has also been known to choose not-so-obvious candidates as chief minister in some other states. If that trend holds true, RSS pracharak Ajay Jamwal could emerge as the party’s choice.

The newly elected BJP legislators and central leaders are expected to meet in Shimla to elect their leader, who would be sworn in as the chief minister. One of them, Dhumal loyalist Virender Kunwar has offered to vacate his seat for the former chief minister if he is nominated as the chief minister.

The BJP national leadership has appointed defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Union rural development minister Narender Singh Tomar to oversee the selection process.

“It a great victory for party, and central leaders will hold consultations before the party legislators meet to elect a new leader,” state party chief Satpal Singh Satti, who lost as well.

The other names doing the rounds include Mohinder Singh, who won for a seventh time, five-term legislator Rajiv Bindal, and former state BJP chief Suresh Bharadwaj and Krishan Kapoor, both elected to fourth terms.

Bhardwaj is one of the founding leaders of the BJP in Himachal Pradesh and started his career as an RSS member before joining the party’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Dec 19, 2017 23:14 IST