The two-member central team of BJP comprising Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Narendra Singh Tomar, which held wide consultations with state party leaders in Shimla, returned to Delhi on Friday without giving any indication about the name of the next Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister. The two had arrived on Thursday.
BJP’s state in-charge Mangal Pandey said: “The central observers held consultations with MLAs and senior leaders and took their views. The decision on the name of the new chief minister will be taken by the party high command on the basis of the ground report from Shimla, which the team will submit today. Thereafter, a meeting of the MLAs will be convened for electing the leader.”
It was earlier believed that the BJP had zeroed in on five-time MLA and veteran leader Jairam Thakur as its CM candidate and a formal announcement to this effect was expected Friday.
The visit of central observers, however, exposed a rift between the party cadres and newly elected MLAs.
Sloganeering in favour of Dhumal and counter-slogans by those backing candidature Thakur was witnessed even as consultations were underway.
Earlier in the day, some BJP workers had also surrounded the vehicles of Sitharaman and Tomar when they had returned to their hotel room after paying a visit to the RSS office.
Insiders say during the meeting of the party’s core committee some members raised the demand to consider Dhumal’s name for the CM’s post though he has lost to Rajinder Rana, a Congress candidate and Dhumal’s own estranged lieutenant, in the election.
The sloganeering irked BJP senior Shanta Kumar, who termed it an act of discipline. “The people of the state have given a clear mandate. Those who have lost should not be given chance. The Chief Minister must be elected by new MLAs from amongst them,” he said.
Union Health Minister J P Nadda and three-time MP Anurag Thakur, who were also called for consultations. could not reach while three MPs — Shanta Kumar, Variender Kashyap and Ram Swaroop Sharma – met the commitee members separately.
In fact, no structured consultations were held with the MLAs that left a large number of Dhumal supporters disappointed. Only a handful of MLAs, like party senior Suresh Bhardwaj and Dr Rajeev Bindal, were called to know their views, apart from state BJP president Satpal Satti, who too was defeated in the election. Dhumal was closeted with the team during the day and also on Thursday evening.
The BJP has won the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections with a two-third majority. After Dhumal’s defeat, names of J P Nadda and Jairam Thakur have been doing the rounds for the CM post.