New Delhi: After its chief ministerial nominee Prem Kumar Dhumal suffered a shocking defeat in the Himachal Pradesh assembly election last week, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday announced the name of Jai Ram Thakur as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
The name of Thakur, a five-time member of legislative assembly (MLA) from the Seraj constituency in Mandi district, was announced after a meeting between the party’s central observers—Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Narinder Singh Tomar—and newly elected members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) and other party leaders in Shimla.
The nomination of 52-year-old Thakur also marks a generational shift in the politics of the hill state as it breaks away from power alternating between the Congress and the BJP under the respective leaderships of Virbhadra Singh and Prem Kumar Dhumal.
The BJP had swept the hill state in the recently concluded state elections, winning 44 of the 68 assembly seats with a vote share of 48.8%, reducing the Congress party to 21 seats. However, Dhumal, whose nomination had proved to be a shot in the arm for the BJP in an otherwise neck-and-neck fight, suffered a shocking defeat, losing the Sujanpur assembly seat.
With Dhumal opting out of the race for the post on Saturday, Thakur and Union minister J.P. Nadda were being seen as the two contenders for the chief minister’s office. However, with the newly elected MLAs lobbying hard for their own candidates and with no clear consensus on who will lead the party in the state assembly, the two central observers had to return to Delhi on Saturday to hold fresh consultation with the central leadership on the issue.
“I thank the people of Himachal as well as party legislators for supporting my name for this post. I also thank Prem Kumar Dhumalji, Shanta Kumarji and J.P. Naddaji for supporting the nomination of my name. People had been waiting for the BJP to come back to power and now finally Himachal is Congress-free. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah have also had a major contribution in bringing BJP back to power," Thakur said at a press conference in Shimla.
“We will try our best to fulfil the aspirations of the people of Himachal and to also fulfil the expectations that the central BJP leadership has from us," he added.
Political analysts say that it is a well thought out decision where Thakur has been rewarded for helping BJP win nine of 10 seats in the Mandi district to which he belongs.
“It is unfortunate that Dhumal lost as the entire election was fought on his name. Even the clear mandate that the BJP got was a mandate for the work and achievements of Dhumal when he was the chief minister. However, Thakur is a good choice as well. He has age on his side, he represents the youth and has a very clean image in state politics. The party performed extremely well in Mandi district, which has been a Congress stronghold, which makes Thakur deserving of the post," said Harish K. Thakur, associate professor and chairman, department of political science, Himachal Pradesh University.