Within hours of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal proposing the name of senior surgeon and retired head of the department of surgery at the India Gandhi Medical College,S S Minhas for the Shimla Mayors post,local BJP leaders scuttled the proposal by asserting that only a party member and loyalist should be given the opportunity to contest for the post.
The opposition from his part members reportedly prompted the chief minister,who had earlier contacted Minhas in the UK, to call the doctor and advise him to remain in the UK. Minhas had reportedly already booked his tickets to return home but had to cancel them after the news on the partys U-turn reached him.
The BJP leadership has finally to keep the choice for mayor confined to party leaders instead of making a non-politicians contest on the BJPs behalf. In the process,the party has also dropped the name of senior IAS officer J S Rana from its list of contenders. A report of a survey on four close contenders for the mayors post is with the chief minister. I believe it will be one of those who will now be picked, said a senior BJP leader. The contenders now include BJP spokesman Ganesh Dutt,Beopar Mandal president Ramesh Sood and Ashok Kapahatia,the chairman of the media advisory board.
Inquiries reveal that besides Minhas,the chief Minister had also assured more than half a dozen other people that their names would be considered. Till Wednesday evening,speculation was also rife that sitting Mayor and Congress leader Madhu Sood would be roped in by BJP bosses but she put an end to the rumours by submitting her claim to be the Congress mayoral candidate.
Reports say Madhu Sood is a frontrunner on the Congress list though initially she had opted out of the race. Among other key contenders are Deputy Mayor Harish Janartha,a close confidant of Union minister Virbhadra Singh.
Janartha was readmitted to the Congress only a few days ago after he had been expelled for having contested the deputy mayors post defying the Congress whip to support another candidate.
The PCC screening committee,headed by veteran Congress leader Brij Bihari Butail held a meeting in the party office on Thursday and framed certain parameters for the grant of tickets to the candidates. A PCC meeting,its general secretary Kuldeep Rathore says,will be held in next two days to finalise the partys poll list.