BJP swept Himachal Pradesh, snatching it from Congress, thereby forming government in their 19th state. With 44 seats, it has won almost a two-thirds majority in the 68-member Himachal assembly. Himachal Pradesh lived up to its reputation of changing the ruler every election, as the BJP comfortably trounced Congress in the Hill State. The Congress won 21 in Himachal where it previously held 36 seats.
Interestingly, BJP Chief Amit Shah broke party norms to announce Prem Kumar Dhumal as party’s face in Himachal. The decision was based on the feedback provided by his party men that Dhumal was still regarded as the most popular leader in the state. The BJP had decided the chief ministerial candidate of Himachal Pradesh just 9 days before polling. Dhumal was shifted from his traditional seat ahead of the elections in an apparent bid to impact other seats in Hamirpur district. However, BJP’s CM nominee and two-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal lost the elections by a margin of 1919 votes against his Congress rival Rajinder Rana from Sujanpur seat.
As soon as the election results were out, the Central Parliamentary Board of the BJP decided to depute two teams to Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh to choose the next Chief Minister for the 2 states. Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Cabinet Minister Narendra Singh Tomar met newly-elected party MLAs.
The shocking defeat of the BJP’s CM Candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal from Sujanpur has once again opened up the race for the Next Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh.
Here are the leaders who could make it to the post of Chief Minister in Himachal Pradesh:
1.) JP Nadda: The Union Health Minister is a Rajya Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, and could be the first choice for the CM’s job. Nadda is thoroughly familiar with the state. He has been an MLA in 1993, 1998 and 2007. He has also headed the crucial forest, environment, and science and technology ministries in state. He was associated with ABVP during his student days in Patna.
JP Nadda has been part of the Narendra Modi Cabinet since 2014 and is believed to be very close the PM and BJP chief Amit Shah. His past association with RSS is likely to work in his favor. Although Nadda is not considered a mass leader but has the reputation of being an organizational man. Nadda however, is one of PM Modi’s most trusted Ministers in the cabinet, who the Prime Minister wouldn’t want to lose.
2.) Jairam Thakur: had earlier served as a cabinet minister in the BJP ministry in the hill state. He was the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj. He was elected to Himachal Pradesh Assembly from Mandi and had won his first election in the year of 1998. Jairam Thakur is in fact the best bet for BJP if they don’t wish to lose Nadda in the central cabinet.
3.) Ajay Jamwal: BJP’s Organizational Secretary for North-East Ajay Jamwal, a leader from Himachal, currently Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pracharak (volunteer) is a strong claimant for the chief Minister chair. Ajay Jamwal played a crucial role in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when he was given the command of the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. Two factors that go in the favor of Ajay Jamwal that he is from RSS background and fits into Modi-Shah’s trend of a New Face. But Ajay Jamwal is not known as a public figure and faced strong opposition from established leaders of the state.
4.) Anurag Thakur: The young leader is son of Dhumal and a Lok Sabha MP from Hamirpur constituency. He has been elected thrice from his home state. He was also elected as BCCI president last year. He also headed party’s youth wing BJYM which is now being headed by Poonam Mahajan.
5.) Prem Kumar Dhumal: Despite losing his Sujanpur seat, Dhumal still remains a strong claimant as the next chief minister because of his rich administrative experience. Dhumal is a known figure and a leader of the masses. Most of those who got a ticket this time were also his loyalists. Dhumal figured higher than Nadda in popularity ratings in party surveys and feedback from the state leaders confirmed it which was Amit Shah announced his name 9 days before the elections. Dhumal comes from the dominant caste of Thakurs who are over 28% of the state’s population.
Some other senior BJP lawmakers in the state, including Mohinder Singh, who won for a record seventh time, five-term MLA Rajiv Bindal, former state BJP chief Suresh Bharadwaj, and Krishan Kapoor, both elected for a fourth term, can also be considered.