Jolted by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) winning the Mayor and Deputy Mayor posts in the Shimla Municipal Corporation polls last week,the BJP has begun efforts to put its house in order before the Assembly polls slated for the year-end.
Highly placed sources said the party was studying the possibility of persuading under-fire Health Minister Rajeev Bindal to quit his ministerial post and take up an organisational assignment.
With Bindals Assembly constituency of Solan being reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates this time,senior party leaders are reportedly working on a plan to carve out a new role for him but want to cash in on his achievements in the health sector,particularly the successful free-ambulance scheme (Atal Swasthya Sewa Yojana or 108 service).
This is also being seen as part of the exercise to build bridges between Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and senior BJP leader Shanta Kumar. Kumar has been at loggerheads with Dhumal and has not attended party meetings in Himachal Pradesh for a while.
The senior BJP leader wants the party to take some harsh decisions to refurbish its image in the state,including the dropping of some ministers before the polls. He has been quoting the case in Punjab,where some BJP ministers were dropped before the elections.
Already two rounds of talks with BJP president Nitin Gadkari,including one at Nahan last month,have been held. Gadkari has put party general secretary J P Nadda and secretary Shyam Jaju on the job to placate Shanta Kumar and ensure that he actively participates in the poll campaign.
Bindal has been under attack,with the opposition Congress levelling property charges against him. He resigned from the ministerial post during the budget session in March but Dhumal rejected his resignation and gave him a clean chit. His presence in the cabinet,however,remains a major irritant in relations between Kumar and Dhumal.
In an equally relevant development,the party has reportedly been speaking to rebels Shyama Sharma and Radha Raman Shashtri – both former BJP ministers who had quit the BJP to join the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP). To dispel any notions of this,however,Shyama on Friday levelled charges of corruption and nepotism against the BJP government. Party insiders on the other hand,say there are chances that the two leaders may return to the BJP,if a deal is clinched in the next few days.
The BJP High Command has also held talks with Food and Supplies Minister Ramesh Dhawala – a Shanta Kumar loyalist – to agree to a formula,which involves sitting IPH minister Ravinder Singh Ravi being fielded from Jawalamukhi – Dhawalas constituency. Ravis constituency of Thural has been scrapped by the Delimitation Commission. In that case,Dhawala may be fielded from nearby Dehra constituency but the move could annoy him and create another rebel by election time.