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Rupani looks set to be Gujarat CM, Dhumal group pushes for him in open Himachal race

The Narendra Modi-led BJP came to power in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh on December 18

india Updated: Dec 22, 2017 16:26 IST
Agencies
Agencies
Press Trust of India, Shimla/Ahmedabad
Narendra Modi,Gujarat election results,Himachal election results
Supporters of Prem Kumar Dhumal raise slogans in his favour outside the venue of the core committee meeting in Shimla on Friday. (ANI Twitter)

The BJP, which won both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections earlier this week, is busy trying to finalise its chief ministerial picks. While some reports have claimed that Vijay Rupani is expected to stay at the helm in the western state, it's Himachal that is seeing an open race.

The shock defeat of Prem Kumar Dhumal, the party’s CM candidate in the hill state, means there are now two contenders — five-time MLA Jairam Thakur, seen as a frontrunner, and Union health minister JP Nadda. But Dhumal too is still very much in the race, as three MLAs have reportedly offered to vacate their seats for him.

Dhumal, a two-time former chief minister, lost from the Sujanpur constituency. The BJP won 44 seats in the 68-member assembly.

On Friday, as BJP observers Nirmala Sitharaman, Narendra Singh Tomar and party in-charge for Himachal Pradesh Mangal Pandey held a meeting with RSS leaders in Shimla, chaos broke out outside the venue.

Supporters of Dhumal raised slogans in his favour, while another group cried “CM should be chosen from the elected MLAs, there shouldn’t be any lobbying”.

Party veteran and Kangra MP Shanta Kumar, who is believed to be opposed to any move to install Dhumal as CM, said raising slogans in favour of any one leader is wrong. “Observers have come from Delhi, decision on CM will be taken soon...If I was the party president I would have expelled such workers. I did not like it,” he said.

A senior BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity that there is a strong view in the party to pick one of the elected MLAs to head the government in Himachal. The name of the new leader is likely to be announced on Friday.

In Gujarat, meanwhile, chief minister Vijay Rupani resigned on Thursday along with his council of ministers, a day after Governor OP Kohli dissolved the assembly, paving the way for formation of a new government.

The process to select the new chief minister will be carried out under the supervision of state observers finance minister Arun Jaitley and BJP general secretary Saroj Pandey.

Sources said the party is likely to stick with Rupani though there is speculation that the central leadership might want a change given the narrow margin of victory.

The BJP, which has been in power in Gujarat for 22 years, won 99 of the 182 seats, its poorest performance so far. The Congress plus allies won 80 seats.

Besides Rupani, the other names doing the rounds for the top job are deputy chief minister Nitin Patel and Mansukh Mandavia, a Rayja Sabha member. Mandavia is from the Patidar community.

First Published: Dec 22, 2017 15:55 IST