The Hush Post: BJP leaders are already lobbying to get where Prem Kumar Dhumal would have been had he won — to become the chief minister of the state. Not one leader but seven of them are in the reckoning. ”On the outside though, they say, we are a different party. Our organisation decides, not we,” as senior BJP leader Ganesh Dutt recently said. But of course, this narrative is for the common man. Sources say, After Dhumal’s exit, JP Nadda, Jai Ram Thakur, Ajay Jamwal, Suresh Bhardwaj, Kishen Kapoor and Mohinder Singh are the seven leaders in the race. This is what insiders of BJP say.

Jagat Prakash Nadda’s services at the national level or 52-year-old Jai Ram Thakur’s typical common man Himachali character along with  his association with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP president Amit Shah. Or the party leadership will para-drop an outsider with links in the state. Or will it try a new model of governance? The take away for the common masses though will be that they will get rid of the alternate governments led either by Dhumal or Virbhadra, and will have something new on the platter. Being a small state, the BJP might be willing to experiment, nobody has forgotten the elevation of Yogi Aditya Nath from nowhere as the chief minister of a big and difficult state like Uttar Pradesh. And that he’s going steady too.

JP Nadda’s proximity to the party leadership is viewed as a plus point for him, but the 2019 general elections getting closer each day, he would be required at the Centre more than in Himachal where a majority government  by BJP is already in the offing, unless its Nadda’s dream come true to be the chief minister of the state. If his administrative and organisational skills are what the BJP leadership is trying to use in Himachal, then he could be a choice. On the contrary, several leaders believe that the BJP top brass will choose the chief minister from among its newly elected MLAs. A strong contender, Jai Ram Thakur a five-time winner from Seraj constituency in Mandi district, is a former rural development and panchayati raj minister , and might win over party leadership with his simple and straight ways. “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 prospects of his elevation as the state’s chief minister, on Tuesday. The party could want the CM to be either from Mandi or Kangra district, where it performed exceedingly well. The fact that the BJP won nine of the 10 seats in Mandi makes his claim even stronger.

Sources said the party may opt for a Thakur leader, the state’s dominant community.  The 52-year-old, from Tandi village in Mandi, was elected as an MLA for the first time in 1998 from Chachiot in Mandi district and since then he was re-elected in 2003 and 2007 from the same seat. In 2012, he was elected from Seraj assembly seat and was re-elected for the fifth time this time around.
With his record as national general secretary Nadda ,who is from Vijaypur in Bilaspur district, has been active in the state and addressed rallies in the state. Nadda was a Himachal MLA for three terms from 1993-98, 1998-2003 and 2007-2012 and had been the leader of opposition and cabinet minister during his stint as the state legislator.

Another name doing the rounds is that of RSS pracharak Ajay Jamwal also who is at present state general secretary (BJP northeast) After Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, now PM Narendra Modi’s next target is the three poll- bound North East states – Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland. He would not like to shift Jamwal out of north east at this crucial juncture, where the party is eyeing a win.

The other local names who could be considered are 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).



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