Two central BJP observers — Nirmala Sitharaman and Narendra Singh Tomar, both Union ministers — arrived in Shimla on Thursday for consultations over the state’s new Chief Minister, but gave no indication about party’s choice, even as the name of five-time MLA Jairam Thakur kept doing the rounds for the post. A senior party leader in Delhi said that the next Himachal CM would be from among the MLAs. This move will rule out Union Health Minister J P Nadda, former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal and the party’s northeast zonal secretary (organisation) Ajay Jamwal.
Tomar, meanwhile, said that the team will take feedback from the party’s core committee, MPs and elected MLAs and share it with the the high command. He added that the final decision about the next CM will be taken by the central leadership. “There is not going to be any formal announcement about next Chief Minister’s name in Shimla,” state BJP president Satpal Satti told party workers who had thronged Hotel Peterhoff, where central observers are scheduled to hold consultations on Friday.
With the arrival of the team, three days after Assembly election results, several newly elected MLAs also reached the venue. Former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal was given a rousing welcome at Peterhoff by BJP MLAs and supporters, who raised slogans like “ Dhumalji ko Jai Sri Ram”. A few newly elected MLAs, including Bikram Thakur (Jaswan-Pragpur), were in forefront greeting Dhumal.
“Eak bar Dhumalji, bar bar Dhumalji” — was another slogan to signal that the former CM was still in race for the top post. Dhumal, however, was seen gesturing to his supporters to avoid such slogans. Interestingly, there were some counter slogans too. Some BJP workers, apparently from Mandi, which is Jairam Thakur’s home district, raised slogans for him. Emotions ran high outside amid supporters from both sides as senior leaders met inside with the central observers. Eventually, they were made to calm down by some MLAs.
Addressing workers later, Dhumal hailed the party victory and congratulated the workers for their struggle to defeat a “corrupt” Congress government. “Soon, the BJP will form a government that I am confident will be efficient, accountable and will last for 25 years as had happened in Gujarat, where the BJP has returned to power even after ruling for 22 years,” he said. While Dhumal was cheered by his supporters when he was on stage, it was Jairam Thakur who received the biggest applause from the workers when he rose to welcome BJP in-charge Mangal Pandey.
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman admitted that the big victory had come with a sense of loss. Without naming Dhumal, she said: “We never wanted this (loss). It’s a victory that has come with a loss. It’s not the way we wanted it to be. We cannot explain how it has pained us. Yet, the larger agenda of the BJP is Congress Mukt Bharat and now one more state has been added to the BJP’s account.” She appealed the workers, who were raising slogans for Dhumal and Jairam Thakur, to work together and strengthen the hands of the government to fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream.
“There will be an honest, stable government in place very soon. The central team is here to initiative the process of government formation and it will take the feedback to Delhi and soon name of the new Chief Ministerial will be announced,” declared Satti.
(With INPUTS FROM ENS, DELHI)