Bringing to an end the intense speculation over who would be the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh in case the BJP wins the upcoming Assembly elections, party president Amit Shah today announced that it would be none other that the two-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
Amit Shah made the announcement while addressing an election rally at Solan in Himachal Pradesh.
“The BJP is going to fight the Himachal Pradesh assembly polls under the leadership of Prem Kumar Dhumal...Dhumal is currently a former CM but after December 18, he will be the new chief minister of the state,” he said.
“Virbharda Singh keeps asking us under whose leadership the BJP is fighting the elections. In the whole country, the BJP is fighting under the leadership of Modiji. But if you want to hear under whose leadership the BJP is contesting in Himachal, then I want to make it clear today.
“Virbhadraji, the BJP is going to fight under Dhumalji’s leadership in Himachal. I want to say that we will fight these 2017 polls in the name of our senior leader Dhumalji. I also want to say that Dhumalji is currently a former chief minister and the leader of the opposition, but after December 18 he will become Himachal’s chief minister,” Shah said.
The state poll results would be declared on December 18. Shah’s announcement was followed by lusty cheers from the party workers and members of the audience in the meeting.
Dhumal, who has been the Himachal Pradesh chief minister twice, had been spearheading the party’s campaign in the state since 1998 assembly polls. He led it to victory in 1998 and 2007 but lost in 2003 and 2012.
Singh, who was again the Congress’ choice for the job, had been taking potshots at the BJP in his meetings due to its decision to not name a chief ministerial face, calling its campaign a “marriage party without a bridegroom”.
The BJP and the Congress had been ruling the state alternately for close to three decades, and Dhumal was at its helm for 10 years.
The BJP had kept people guessing as to whether it would name a chief ministerial candidate before the polls.
Often it did not name a candidate, as seen in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand among other states but it chose to name its choice in Assam, where it won, and Delhi, where it lost.
Hailing the decision of the party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Prem Kumar Dhumal has rich administrative experience and will make a "wonderful CM" once again.
Shortly after the announcement about Mr Dhumal was made, Mr Modi said the BJP wants to make Himachal Pradesh corruption-free and undertake record development in the state.
"Dhumal Ji is among our senior most leaders with rich administrative experience in Himachal. He will once again make a wonderful CM @DhumalHP," PM Modi tweeted.
"BJP's focus is politics of development. We want to make Himachal corruption-free & initiate record development initiatives in the state," the prime minister added.
The BJP made the announcement after reports emerged that the Rajput voters, who can tilt the scales in the assembly elections, could be inclined towards Congress, which has already nominated rival Rajput and incument Virbhadra Singh as its CM face.
The decision to name Dhumal, which was announced by BJP chief Amit Shah at an election rally in the state, was taken after hour-long deliberations involving state as well central leaders including party General Secretary (Organisation) Ram Lal, state in-charge Mangal Pandey and state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti.
Sources in BJP said that going into the elections without a CM face sent a message among voters and party cadres that the central leadership may nominate Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda, a Brahmin, as its Chief Minister after the polls if the party gets majority in the state Assembly. The Brahmins in the state are around 18 per cent.
According to sources, Shah took feedback of each constituency from the leaders and found that the dominant Rajput community, which is around 38 per cent of the total population, were inclining towards the Congress.
Even before the list of candidates was made public, Dhumal, on his part, was assertive by projecting himself as the rightful contender to the post more than Nadda, who appeared to have the blessings of the BJP leadership.
It also emerged in the deliberations that Congress was getting an advantage with Singh as its CM face while non-declaration of a CM face by the BJP may hurt its chances.
Sources said that an internal survey done by the party also suggested the lines of opinions expressed by party leaders in the meeting.
Due to non-declaration of a CM face the party was divided in two camps -- one led by Dhumal and the other by Nadda.