The former BJP chief minister, 84-year-old Shanta Kumar has emerged as a ‘graceful elder’ following the sudden turn of events that succeeded the Himachal poll results on 18 December.
Kumar, a reluctant visitor to the state capital during the previous BJP regime from 2007-2012, participated in all BJP meetings over five days before Jai Ram Thakur was chosen as the new CM after the shock defeat of the BJP’s CM face, Prem Kumar Dhumal, Kumar’s arch rival.
“Everyone is happy with the election results. The BJP has got 44 seats this time,” he said. While most party leaders were tight-lipped on the issue of new CM, Shanta Kumar declared that the “CM should be from among elected candidates”. His stand was appreciated and went in favour of Jai Ram Thakur.
The other names doing the rounds were those of Dhumal and Union minister JP Nadda. For both of them, a by-election would have been required, which was not something the leadership was keen on.
Kumar did not support or oppose any name publicly. He even snubbed those who raised slogans in favour of a particular leader before the central observers, who were here to hold consultations on the choice.
“You don’t become CM by raising slogans,” Kumar told the media. He attended the swearing-in ceremony of Thakur on Wednesday and was seen witnessing the ‘change of era’ in the state BJP with a smile.
Shanta Kumar and Dhumal have been arch rivals over the last two decades. Kumar became CM in 1977 and 1990, while Dhumal was CM in 1998 and 2007.
BJP insiders said in 1998, the BJP saw a transition of leadership from Shanta Kumar to Dhumal, who came to the fore with the support of Nadda, who was the leader of the BJP Legislature Party in HP then.