The shock defeat of the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal from Sujanpur has opened up the race for the top post in Himachal Pradesh with Union Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda and five-time MLA Jairam Thakur emerging prime contenders. A search is on for a new leader of the BJP Legislature party and the incharge of party affairs in Himachal Pradesh is expected to be present here today evening. Though a meeting of the Legislature party has not been convened so far, the party high command has appointed Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Narinder Tomar as central observers for the election of its leader. The BJP had decided not to project any leader as chief minister and there was a general impression that Nadda would get the job. However, just nine days before the November 9 polls, Dhumal’s name was announced.
The move did not yield expected results and Dhumal not only lost his own election but his staunch supporters like Gulab Singh, Ravinder Singh Ravi, state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti, Randhir Sharma, K L Thakur and Vijay Agnihotri were also humbled. “There are not many senior and experienced leaders for the post but it does not matter as the leader would be decided by the high command and the observers would be briefed accordingly,” said a senior party leader. The names of Mohinder Singh, who won for the seventh time from Dharampur, five-time MLA Rajiv Bindal, former state BJP chief Suresh Bharadwaj and Krishan Kapoor, both four-time MLAs, are also doing the rounds. A section is still batting for Dhumal claiming the elections were won under his leadership. BJP MLA from Kutlehar, Varinder Kanwar, has already offered to vacate his seat for Dhumal. However, the chances of electing a defeated leader as chief minister appear not too bright.