After its chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal suffered a crushing defeat in the assembly elections, BJP on Sunday named Jairam Thakur for the top post in Himachal Pradesh.
Who is Jairam Thakur? Well, for those who are not aware, the five-time MLA is one of BJP’s senior leaders in the state and is known as the saffron party’s ‘gentle face’ for his non-aggressive style of politics.
Ever since Dhumal’s defeat in Sujanpur assembly constituency, the names of Thakur and Union minister JP Nadda had been doing the rounds as probable CM candidates. Even after the 52-year-old was named as CM, his mild-mannered nature was on show. “I thank everyone, central leadership, Prem Kumar Dhumal ji who proposed my name and supported by JP Nadda, Shanta Kumar ji,” Thakur said.
— ANI (@ANI) December 24, 2017
Having joined the Sangh Parivar as a “whole-timer” of ABVP right after graduation, the soft-spoken Thakur has covered a long, laborious journey from Tandi village, near Thunag in remote Seraj area of Mandi, to reach the chief minister’s chair. Coming from a humble background, Thakur is neither an activist nor an aggressive politician, yet his voice hardly goes unheard — either in party forums or in the state assembly.
“My childhood was like any other village lad’s. My parents worked in the fields, and for us (three brothers and two sisters) life was not a luxury due to our father’s limited earning. I did primary schooling in my village, and went to a school in a village nearby for middle school,” Thakur had recalled while speaking to the Indian Express earlier this month. After matriculation in 1980, he had to drop out for two years before joining college. “I realised my parents could not have afforded my college education, so I did not force them to. I used to work with my parents and helped augment the family income until I managed to collect money for college,” Thakur had said.
Local residents said he worked during the day and went for classes in the evenings. Thakur soon joined ABVP, the RSS’s students’ wing, and by the time he graduated, he had decided to become an ABVP whole-timer. “I was sent to Jammu for the organisation, and worked there for three or four years,” he had said. This was the time L K Advani took out his Ram Rath Yatra, and young Thakur became active in the Ram Mandir movement.
In 1998, at 38, Thakur was given the BJP ticket from Chachiot Vidhan Sabha segment. Defeating Congress veteran Moti Ram Thakur by nearly 6,000 votes, Jairam made his maiden entry to the House. The BJP formed the government in Shimla under Prem Kumar Dhumal, with support of the Sukh Ram-led Himachal Vikas Congress. There has been no looking back since for Thakur, whose popularity in the area, locals say, lies with his grassroots touch. He has been instrumental in the development of one of the state’s most backward areas, according to his constituents.
ALSO READ: Jairam Thakur is new Himachal Pradesh CM
Thakur won consecutive elections from Chachiot in 2003 and 2007 by big margins, before the constituency became Seraj. In 2012, he defeated Congress’s Tara Thakur by over 5,700 votes. A former minister of rural development and panchayati raj, Thakur won by 11,254 votes this time — his biggest victory margin thus far. Thakur, who believes “only humility and work pays” in life, had said, “I am thankful to all my leaders who campaigned for me, and the voters who have reposed such faith in me.”
Party insiders revealed that during the campaign itself, BJP president Amit Shah, who had addressed a rally in Jairam Thakur’s remote constituency Seraj, had announced that if elected, Thakur would get a big responsibility in the new government.