Why BJP won Himachal Pradesh but its CM candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost

Shamsher Chandel
Shamsher ChandelDec 18, 2017 | 17:51

Why BJP won Himachal Pradesh but its CM candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost

It was a plan hatched in the autumn of October, probably, to bring about the fall of the two-time chief minister of Himachal Pradesh Prem Kumar Dhumal’s electoral career. Otherwise what explains the win of 44 of the party’s MLAs, who are ordinary names, yet the only mass leader of the BJP - Dhumal - loses. He is 73, going to be 75 in two years, the BJP’s superannuation age as announced by PM Narendra Modi. So, if someone does not adhere to it, the party will force him to.


He was not alone to get the winter chills on an otherwise sunny day for the BJP. So perfect was the plan that his "samdhi", son Anurag Thakur’s father-in-law, Gulab Singh Thakur, a close-aide of Dhumal for decades, too lost from Jogindernagar, where the cadres were told to vote for whoever they wished, insiders say.

Prem Kumar Dhumal, BJP's CM candidate in Himachal Pradesh, lost Sujanpur Assembly seat to Congress's Rajinder Rana.

When Dhumal was trailing, what did his rival within the party and chief ministerial aspirant Union health minister JP Nadda’s supporters say about Dhumal being sent to Sujanpur against the Congress giant Rajinder Rana? They said, “Party chose this seat for him because it was a tough one and only someone of his stature could make a contest out of it.”

While, leaders like MP Ram Swaroop Sharma were quick to admit, “Yes, a CM candidate should have been given a safe seat.” But he stopped short of admitting that his defeat was devised. And the Congress too liked the fact that the biggest mass leader of the BJP in the hill state was glued to his constituency going door-to-door seeking votes. However, Congress partially got the story wrong by believing that tying Dhumal to Sujanpur would ease things for them. As a result, an equally lobby-ridden Congress patriarch Virbhadra Singh started a selective campaign for only his men, choosing to even forego the high command’s choices. The octogenarian leader didn’t realise what the BJP masterminds in Delhi had in mind. Dhumal’s absence throughout the state was made up for by the presence of UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi’s presence in the state. Yogi flew in to campaign on October 29. He was followed by Amit Shah, who criss-crossed the state for five days continuously in a chopper, followed by Rajnath Singh and finally Narendra Modi took the charge.


Union health minister JP Nadda is considered Dhumal's rival within the party and a CM aspirant. 

All this while, the present chief minister Virbhadra Singh started showing confidence that he could return to power for the record seventh time. So, when he was asked whether Dhumal’s absence from the campaign could mean advantage for the Congress, he sarcastically repeated in his soft voice a remark from the past, "Dhumal ko BJP dhumil kardegi aur khud bhi dhumil ho jayegi", meaning, "Dhumal will be destroyed by the BJP itself and in the process the party will lose too". That is where he got it wrong. By the time the campaigning ended on November 7, there were talks, which on the outside seemed like rumours, that the BJP high command wanted a fresh face for Himachal, probably on the lines of Uttar Pradesh. But the question was why Dhumal was announced as the chief ministerial face? It was done to encourage the cadres to vote en masse for the BJP. And it must have voted en masse, BJP cadres thought, journalists too. But today’s results tell another story. It tells a story of an intense internal strife which had deep roots, and started 20 long years ago, between Shanta Kumar-JP Nadda duo and Prem Kumar Dhumal.


In these elections, when the party high command wasn’t with Dhumal, the time was ripe to execute their plan carefully and selectively. Dhumal’s loss represents that internal strife between Shanta-Nadda on one side and Dhumal on the other. His long time friend and Anurag Thakur’s father-in-law Thakur Gulab Singh’s defeat can also be seen in the same light. That is how we can understand the rumours which popped up somewhere around November 7 of some low-profile names as the possible choice for the chief ministership. These names included that of a four-time MLA Jai Ram Thakur from Seraj, Union health minister JP Nadda and Ajay Jamwal, a strong BJP organisation man, who comes from Jogindernagar in Mandi, the constituency from where Dhumal’s "samdhi" lost, which may also answer the question, why?.

As BJP reached the finish line, of the three potential CM candidates, Jai Ram Thakur was summoned to Delhi. By evening or tomorrow morning, it will be clear whether summoning Jai Ram Thakur answers another question: Who will be the next chief minister of Himachal Pradesh?

Last updated: December 18, 2017 | 17:53
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