Updated: September 15, 2021 5:44:56 am
With the BJP central leadership affecting leadership changes in three states within months, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur’s second trip to Delhi in less than a week on Tuesday triggered speculation about the possibility of a similar change in the hill state where elections are due next year.
BJP sources, however, sought to dismiss it, saying the Chief Minister was called to Delhi to discuss the party’s strategies for the upcoming by-elections in one Lok Sabha constituency and three Assembly constituencies.
Thakur was in Delhi last week to invite President Ram Nath Kovind as well as Union ministers for an event to mark the golden jubilee of Himachal Pradesh’s statehood. His second trip within days sparked rumours that he was summoned to Delhi by the leadership to discuss a possible change of guard in the state.
“The Chief Minister is in the national capital to discuss the by-elections. Preparations also have to begin for the Assembly elections and strategies have to be formed to counter the Congress, anti-incumbency factor and factionalism in the state unit,” said a BJP leader familiar with the developments.
The party is preparing for the Lok Sabha by-election in Mandi, which has 17 Assembly segments, and bypolls in three assembly constituencies – Jubbal-Kotkhai, Fatehpur and Arki.
The Mandi seat fell vacant bypoll after two-time BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma was found dead – in a suspected case of suicide – at his official residence in Delhi in March. The death of BJP MLA Narinder Bragata left the Jubbal-Kotkhai Assembly seat vacant and Fatehpur seat fell vacant following the death of Congress MLA Sujan Singh Pathania. The by-election to the Arki seat was necessitated due to former chief minister and Congress veteran Virbhadra Singh’s death.
“The Opposition has used Sharma’s suicide to target the BJP, saying he hung himself after being under pressure from the BJP central leadership,” said a source from Shimla. “The Congress is expected to field Virbhadra Singh’s wife in the seat [Mandi]. The loyalty of the voters in that region for the family and the sympathy factor could make it tough for the party. So the Chief Minister needed to have talks with the BJP central leadership as well as Sangh leaders,” the source added.
Party sources ruled out prospects of a leadership change in Himachal as Thakur has earned goodwill as a Chief Minister who has managed the Covid pandemic situation relatively well.
“Be it getting the pharma sector active for multiplying production of medicines such as hydroxychloroquine or handling Covid restrictions without creating hurdles for the manufacturers or in the vaccination field – Himachal is the first state to achieve 100 per cent target of administering the first dose of the vaccine for those eligible – the government has done a fairly good job,” said a central BJP leader, while also praising the government for providing financial assistance for those who lost jobs during the pandemic.
Sources also said that Thakur, from the dominant Rajput community, has been successful in taking everyone along during his term. A soft-spoken leader with a clean and moderate image, he has so far maintained good ties with most of the key leaders in the party as well as the RSS.
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