Prem Kumar Dhumal, BJP’s choice for Himachal Pradesh chief minister’s post, suffered a shocking personal defeat even as the party sailed through under his leadership. Dhumal was clearly in for an embarrassment as he stood in the fray of those defeated in the state that soundly voted for the saffron party. The potential CM candidate bit dust against his Congress rival and former confidant Rajinder Rana. Rana is reported to be a local strongman and is credited for many reforms here. He is known for the efforts in setting up a mini Secretariat in Sujanpur which was a long pending demand of the locals. Even before the elections, Sujanpur was considered a tough seat to win for BJP.
In 2012, Rana had contested the election as an Independent and defeated his nearest Congress rival Anita Verma by 14,155 votes. Later, Rana extended support to Virbhadra Singh after winning the polls last time and resigned to contest Lok Sabha polls from Hamirpur in 2014 while his wife, who contested the assembly by-election from Sujanpur lost by a thin margin.
Rana was known to be a close confidant of Dhumal for one decade and was appointed as chairman of the Media Advisory Committee when he became chief minister for the first time in 1998. “I owe this success to Dhumal ji, who is also my political guru, I am sure he must be proud of my victory,” Rana was quoted as saying by India Today. However, after denial of ticket in 2012, he entered the fray as an Independent. He later parted ways with Dhumal and contested Lok Sabha polls against Anurag Thakur in 2014 as a Congress candidate but lost. Vote for the chief minister was the main poll plank in Hamirpur district and it has helped the party considerably. However, a defeat in the elections has somehow spoiled the celebration Dhumal family. “In politics one faces a defeat while another faces a win. It will be failure on our part not to be able to give justice to the people (of Sujanpur). It’s time for introspection,” an emotional Dhumal told reporters in his hometown Hamirpur.
Dumal lost by a margin of 1911 votes. Now, very few options are left for Dhumal to get the CM seat. Dhumal may contest a by-election even any of the elected party legislators agree to vacate his/her seat. That too, is a matter of approval from the party leadership.