After the BJP swept across Jammu’s Hindu heartland, winning 25 seats in the recent assembly polls, the demand for a Hindu Chief Minister in the country’s only Muslim-majority state has become louder here. While the BJP is engaged in negotiations for a coalition to form the next government, a look at some possible contenders for the Chief Minister’s post from the party.
A BJP veteran who was an ABVP leader during his student days, Nirmal Singh has been actively associated with the RSS and has gone to jail several times during various agitations, including Emergency.
A History professor in Jammu University, he was born at Karanwara village in Kathua district on December 1, 1955, and is among the three sons of late Thakur Gajey Singh, a personal guard of the last Dogra ruler of Jammu Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh.
Nirmal Singh, who is currently a BJP national executive committee member, became the BJP state general secretary in 1996 and went on to become the party’s state president for four years in 2002.
His first encounter with RSS was during his school days when he used to accompany his elder brother Kuldeep Singh to the house of Thakur Baldev Singh, a prominent Jan Sangh leader who was later elected to the Lok Sabha. He joined the outfit in 1972-73. During the Emergency, he was arrested and jailed for a month. After Emergency, he joined ABVP and worked as its full-time state organising secretary till 1979.
In 1980, he joined Government Degree College, Poonch, as an ad hoc lecturer. But soon he shifted to PG Arya College, Ludhiana in the 1980s when militancy was at its peak in Punjab. His association with the RSS continued and he worked as its Ludhiana city Karyawah from 1983 to 1989.
After the death of BJP MP Vaid Vishnu Dutt, he unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha by-election from Jammu-Poonch. He also lost the 2008 assembly elections from Gandhi Nagar. This is the first time he has been elected as MLA, defeating Congress minister Manohar Lal, from Billawar.
THE Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office is known as a strong votary of abrogation of Article 370 that grants special status to J&K. A well-known doctor in Jammu, Singh joined BJP in 2012. His rise in the party was fast and soon he became a member of its national executive and also chief spokesperson for the party’s state unit.
Hailing from Malhori village in Doda, Jitendra belongs to a prominent family of the state. His father Rajinder Singh retired as Chief Engineer while his youngest brother Devender Singh Rana had been adviser to CM Omar Abdullah before becoming provincial president of the NC in Jammu region. In the last Lok Sabha elections, Jitendra Singh won from Udhampur, defeating former union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The state BJP general secretary is a first-time MLA, defeating Congress heavyweight and minister Raman Bhalla from Gandhi Nagar in the recent elections. He is a three-time Mayor of Jammu city between 2005 and 2010.
Associated with the RSS, ABVP and then BJP since his school days, he was arrested and served 13 months in jails in Patiala and Gurdaspur areas of Punjab on charges of printing and circulating material against the imposition of Emergency in 1975. At that time, he was a class X student. During his student days, he worked as Punjab’s ABVP secretary.
Kavinder did his graduation in Punjab where his father late Bindraban Gupta was posted as an employee of the Post and Telegraph Department. He and his family came to Jammu in 1982 after his father got a home posting. After shifting, he continued working for the party. In 1984, he led thousands of youths in a march towards the border at Suchetgarh to protest frequent firing by the Pakistani Rangers. He became the state chief of the BJYM in 1993 and continued to head the youth wing till 1998. Thereafter, he became BJP’s Jammu district president and later its state vice-president.
The MLA from Raipur Domana who is also a state party general secretary is from Kuleed village in Kishtwar where he was born in 1966.
Among the 25 BJP MLAs in Jammu region, Bhagat is the seniormost as he had been elected from Ramban earlier in 1996.
The graduate from GGM Science College at Jammu, he had been associated with the ABVP since his school days in Kishtwar. In 1990, he became ABVP’s state joint secretary and later its state secretary in 1994-95. A full-time party worker for the past 25 years, Bhagat worked actively in mobilising people and persuading them to fight militancy in the state in the early 1990s.