The Hush Post: BJP leader Jai Ram Thakur will take oath as the state chief minister at the historical Ridge Maidan in Shimla on Wednesday. There are a lot of tell tale stories doing the rounds as to how Jai Ram was finally zeroed in as the next chief minister. Sources say, initially central minister JP Nadda was ahead in the race till Saturday night when the final stamp on his approval was put by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah. Modi did not want to shift out Nadda from the Centre keeping an eye on the 2019 General elections. What had been proposed to them by central observers, Nirmala Sitharaman and Narendar Tomar, was Nadda as chief minister and Jairam as deputy CM. Nadda’s name was vehemently opposed by the Dhumal faction and old party leader Shanta Kumar wanted the chief minister from among the elected legislators. Dhumal was taken along by the central observers to Delhi in the private chopper and has been probably been given a promise of being rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat next year.
Now with Mandi BJP loyalists being rewarded with the top post, the choice of cabinet ministers would be the first test of the CM designate, though the state party and the BJP high command will have a major say in the choice. To balance caste, regional and factional equation, he will have to give due representation to all the districts, castes and most importantly adjust loyalists of both PK Dhumal and JP Nadda, who lost out in the race for Chief Minister to Thakur.
Nadda loyalist Rakesh Pathania is likely to get a ministerial berth; Sarveen Chaudhary is likely to secure a berth being the senior most of the three BJP women legislators; senior leaders Mahender Singh and Kishan Kapoor are almost a certainty. Shimla legislator Suresh Bhardwaj is being tipped as the Assembly Speaker. One berth each could go to Rajiv Bindal from Nahan and one to Govind Thakur from Kullu. Being a tribal, MLA from Lahaul Spiti Ram Lal Markanday could be made a minister or Deputy Speaker.
Meanwhile, behind the scene arrangements are being made for the swearing-in ceremony of the 14th chief minister of the state.