Incumbent Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma is likely to seek a second term in office in the upcoming party elections. The names of a number of other senior leaders are also doing the rounds.
Although no date has been fixed for the polls, Avinash Rai Khanna, the BJP’s chief election officer, had announced that elections to state party posts would be completed by November 20.
A senior leader from Doaba said that Jalandhar Central MLA Manoranjan Kalia and former Jalandhar Mayor Rakesh Rathore could contest the elections. From Majha, BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh of Amritsar and Pathankot MLA Ashwani Sharma may contest the polls.
Although speculation is rife that Avinash Rai Khanna too may join the race, sources say that it is unlikely that he would give up his post of party national vice-president.
Former BJP MP from Amritsar Navjot Singh Sidhu’s name was also discussed, party insiders said. The Punjab BJP has two main factions — one led by Kamal Sharma and the other by Avinash Rai Khanna.
Kalia is of the Khanna group and known to be a vocal leader. He had taken a hard stand against senior party leader and former Himachal chief minister Shanta Kumar.
“Shanta’s letter (to BJP national president Amit Shah) had put the BJP high command in an embarrassing situation. Some may see Kalia’s reaction as appropriate. Kamal Sharma’s handling of the situation in which his aides were investigated in a drug-related case showed he isn’t assertive enough,” said a senior leader.
Former Mayor Rakesh Rathore has a ‘clean image’ and is considered to be close to Kamal Sharma.
Ashwani Sharma also enjoys a good rapport with Khanna while Chugh also has support at the Centre, party insiders said.
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