- BJP sends two teams to Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat as observers
- BJP’s PK Dhumal lost the assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh
- Mr. Dhumal reportedly wanted to contest from his home turf Hamirpur
NEW DELHI: The BJP’s top decision-making body on Monday evening got down to the task of selecting its chief ministers for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat and decided to dispatch two teams led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to Gandhinagar and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to Shimla as observers.
The central parliamentary board of the BJP met in Delhi after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory speech where he called the support for the party an indication that the country was ready for “reform agenda as every citizen wants India transformed”.
After the board’s meeting, Health Minister JP Nadda said it had been decided that Arun Jaitley and party general secretary Saroj Pandey would go to Gujarat while Ms. Sitharaman and Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar will go to Himachal Pradesh as observers.
“They will speak to the MLAs to elect new leaders of the party,” Mr. Nadda said.
The BJP has managed to retain Gujarat, the home turf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah for the fifth consecutive time and wrested Himachal Pradesh from the Congress with nearly two-thirds majority in the just-concluded assembly elections.
But PK Dhumal, who was named as the BJP’s presumptive chief minister at the last minute in a deviation from the party’s strategy in recent state elections, has lost. That gives the party a free hand to name anyone else for the state’s top post. One BJP lawmaker, Varinder Kanwar who won from Kutlehar in Una district, has offered to vacate his seat to let Mr. Dhumal contest.
Mr. Dhumal, who accepted defeat even before the counting process was completed, hasn’t indicated if he would take up the offer. He is believed to be waiting for a hint from the central leadership to confirm that he was still in the reckoning for the state’s top job.
A two-time Chief Minister, Mr. Dhumal, 73, reportedly wanted to contest from his home turf Hamirpur but was told to stand from a constituency near his own, Sujanpur. He lost to the Congress’ Rajendra Singh Rana, who had won from Sujanpur even as an independent. Some of Mr. Dhumal’s supporters allege this was a ploy to clear the way for other CM hopefuls in the party.
When NDTV asked him about it, the soft-spoken politician said he would not make any comments.
“Personal loss is not of much importance. The BJP victory which has been brought to the state is important… In politics, sometimes one wins, sometimes one loses. I was not expecting this loss and will analyze it,” he said.
In Gujarat, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani who was fielded from Rajkot West, the safe seat from where PM Narendra Modi had contested as Gujarat Chief Minister in 2002, is expected to be named Chief Minister. Mr. Rupani had won the seat in 2014 by poll and secured a margin of 25,000 against his Congress rival Indranil Rajguru.