The suspense over choosing the Chief Minister in Himachal Pradesh mounted on Tuesday with some names — including five-time MLA Jairam Thakur and union minister J.P. Nadda — doing the rounds and defeated chief ministerial face Prem Kumar Dhumal also not being completely ruled out.
The name of another senior leader, Rajeev Bindal, MLA from Nahan, is also in the reckoning for the top post, as he apparently has the backing of a section in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Jairam Thakur won from Seraj constituency by defeating Chet Ram of the Congress.
“So far, the party has not decided who will be Chief Minister in the state. Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Narendra Singh Tomar will visit Himachal Pradesh to talk to party leaders in the state before deciding on the name,” said a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) source.
Sources in the BJP, however, also did not rule out the possibility of Prem Kumar Dhumal being chosen for the CM’s post. Although earlier Nadda’s name was doing the rounds, Dhumal’s name was announced as the party’s chief ministerial candidate midway through the election campaign in the state.
Dhumal, who had won the last election from Hamirpur constituency, had reservations over contesting from Sujanpur. But, the central leadership asked him to contest from there, and he faced defeat.
Dhumal faced defeat against close rival Rajinder Rana of the Congress from Sujanpur. Rana was once the “election manager” of Dhumal and knows his family well. Rana defeated the two-time Chief Minister by a slender margin of 1,919 votes.
Meanwhile, BJP MLA Virender Kanwar, who won from Kutlehar seat, has offerered to resign from his seat for Dhumal.
In Gujarat, although the BJP had announced Vijay Rupani’s name as the chief ministerial candidate before the election, by appointing a team of observors under Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and party leader Saroj Pandey, the central leadership has kept the options open.
There were speculations that union minister Smriti Irani could be sent to Gujarat as Chief Minister as she represented the Rajya Sabha from the state.
However, certain quarters denied such possibility because of the responsibility given to Irani by the party leadership to counter Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in the next general elections.