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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Jai Ram Thakur gets a boost by PM pat, Himachal Pradesh BJP remains divided house

A slew of Himachal Pradesh BJP leaders blame their factionalism and infighting for the party debacle in the recent bypolls, which had put Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur in the line of fire.

Written by Om Prakash Thakur | Shimla |
Updated: January 4, 2022 2:15:07 pm
Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives a memento from Himachal Pradesh CM Jai Ram Thakur during a rally in Mandi. (PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 27 December rally at Mandi on the completion of four years of the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government might have given a boost to Thakur’s morale, but the saffron camp continues to be riven with factional fighting in Himachal Pradesh.

About two months ago, the BJP was routed in the bypolls, losing all three Assembly seats, including Arki, Jubbal-Kotkhai and Fatehpur, besides the Mandi parliamentary constituency — Chief Minister Thakur’s home turf — to the Opposition Congress party.

The by-election debacle put Thakur in the line of fire from his detractors within and outside the BJP, and led to speculation that there might be a change of guard in the ruling state dispensation.

A few days before the Mandi rally, Thakur had remarked that such speculation had been going on for the last four years but he has continued to remain in saddle.

Addressing the rally, PM Modi gave his vote of confidence for the beleaguered CM in the lead-up to the next state Assembly polls slated for November 2022. “Jai Ram ji and his diligent team has not left any stone unturned for fulfilling the dreams of the people of Himachal Pradesh,” the PM said, claiming that the state scaled new heights of development in the last four years.

Lauding Thakur, Modi also said that the crowd at the rally despite cold weather conditions showed that the people of Himachal Pradesh were “satisfied with the achievements” of the state government.

HP BJP president Suresh Kashyap said the “mammoth crowd” at the rally reaffirmed “popular support” for the Thakur government. Some BJP insiders however said that had all these people turned out to vote in the 30 October bypolls, party candidate in Mandi Brig Khushal Thakur would have easily won.

The rally also gave the Congress some ammunition as it attacked the PM for not announcing any financial package for the hill state hit hard by the Covid pandemic. A BJP leader admitted that “It is really difficult for the BJP as well as the Thakur government to defend themselves as to why their double-engine government was unable to get financial aid from the Centre”.

A slew of HP BJP leaders blame factionalism and infighting for the party’s disastrous showing in the bypolls. Referring to the point that the party has remained a divided house in the state, a senior MLA said, “If this issue is not resolved in time, it will be difficult for the party to win the coming Vidhan Sabha elections,” adding that “what happened in Mandi seat must not be forgotten by the high command”.

Conceding that factionalism might have been a factor behind the party’s poor showing in the bypolls, Kashyap blames complacency and overconfidence for it. “In 2019, BJP won Mandi parliamentary seat by more than 4 lakh votes. So the party was complacent during the bypolls and paid heavily for it,” he says, adding that “Congress can recover but we need to work hard.”

He asserts, “We will resolve all these issues. After this successful rally, BJP is going to launch Maha Sampark Abhiyan (mega public outreach campaign) in January. Many more programmes are on the cards, we will reclaim our lost grounds.”

Kashyap also attributed the Congress’s victory to the “sympathy factor” due to the demise of Congress stalwart and six-time CM Virbhadra Singh ahead of the bypolls.

One factor behind the BJP’s defeat that Kashyap chose to gloss over was the fact that several senior party leaders, including ex-CM and Thakur’s bête noire Prem Kumar Dhumal, former Mandi MP Maheshwar Singh, ex-state party president Khimi Ram, former ministers Ravinder Singh Ravi among others, along with their camp followers, had not campaigned in the by-election — and earlier in the civic polls — after being sidelined by the Thakur dispensation.

The HP BJP had got its first jolt in the elections to the four municipal corporations in April this year, in which the Congress clinched two newly-constituted corporations, Solan and Palampur. Knives were out against Thakur within the party after the civic poll setback too, but with the backing of a key section of the central leadership and the RSS he managed to survive.

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