Himachal CM: After Dhumal loses, Nadda, Jai Ram emerge frontrunners
Though Himachal accepted BJP's leadership for next five years, it rejected their CM candidate, Prem Kumar Dhumal. Incidentally, BJP declared Dhumal as the CM candidate on 31 October, about 10 days before the campaigning ended. Now, after losing to the Congress candidate Rajinder Rana in Sunjanpur, it seems Dhumal might be out of the race. So, who will be the next CM? We elaborate!
Current health minister, JP Nadda was expected to be CM candidate before Dhumal's name was announced. Nadda also has administrative experience as BJP's national general secretary. This coupled with his proximity to the BJP leadership and understanding of the state politics might work in his favor. The only factor going against him is that he is a Brahmin; Himachal is predominantly a Thakur stronghold.
Jai Ram Thakur has also emerged as a possible CM candidate. Thakur, who has an ABVP background, is also considered close to Nadda. Moreover, he is a Rajput Thakur. Thus, if Nadda fails to make the cut due to his caste, Jai Ram could be a favorable choice. A five-time MLA, Jai Ram has also held ministerial posts in the 2007-2012 BJP government.
Senior BJP leader Suresh Bharadwaj, a three-time legislator, also stands a chance. He has a strong RSS/ABVP background and a clean image. Moreover, he retained his Shimla (Urban) seat with a comfortable majority of 1,903 votes. Bharadwaj has been associated with BJP since student days.
Meanwhile, Dhumal is still eligible to be the CM. If appointed CM, he has six months to be elected as MLA. Newly-elected MLA Virender Kanwar is ready to vacate his seat. However, this is possible only if BJP supports him, which appears unlikely. His seat was changed from Hamirpur, his traditional support-base, to Sunjanpur, against his wishes. This shows his clout within BJP has certainly diminished.
Reportedly, Sunjanpur was never a safe seat for Dhumal. Hamirpur was safe and if BJP wanted him to be the CM, he would not have to prove his popularity against Rana. Now, BJP need not worry about factionalism within the party, if Dhumal isn't declared CM. Presently, Jai Ram, who was tipped to be Dhumal's deputy CM, has emerged as a favorite.