New Delhi: With just nine days left for polling to take place in Himachal Pradesh, BJP president Amit Shah on Tuesday announced that 73-year-old veteran leader Professor P.K. Dhumal will be the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the hill state.
The name of Prof. Dhumal, who is just two years short of the party’s unofficial age bar, was announced by Mr Shah at an election rally in the state where the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government is facing massive anti-incumbency sentiment.
A former CM and a Thakur, Prof. Dhumal is contesting from a new Assembly constituency, Sujanpur, this time.
Sujanpur and its adjoining seats, including Kangra, Hamirpur and Mandi, have a significant Thakur population. Thakurs, who constitute about 35 per cent of the population, are the largest caste group in Himachal, followed by Dalits (25 per cent), Brahmins (15 per cent) and OBCs (12 per cent).
Himachal Pradesh’s 68 Assembly seats go to polls on November 9.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who shares an excellent rapport with Prof. Dhumal, tweeted, “Dhumal Ji is among our senior-most leaders with rich administrative experience in Himachal. He will once again make a wonderful CM... BJP’s focus is politics of development. We want to make Himachal corruption-free and initiate record development initiatives in the state.”
Ever since the BJP released its list of candidates, there’s been speculation about the party’s CM candidate with the names of several leaders, including that of Union minister J.P. Nadda, doing the rounds. The state unit was also abuzz that the party leadership would consider, among other things, its unofficial age bar of 75 years while naming a CM candidate.
Sources disclosed that one of the major reasons why the BJP was postponing naming its chief ministerial candidate was the fact that its state unit is infested with factionalism. A senior party leader said that with just nine days remaining for the state to go to polls, the Central leadership has given no time to dissenting voices to generate confusion among the cadres.
Sources disclosed that the party’s Central leadership, including the PM, asked Prof. Dhumal to contest from Sujanpur and not from his traditional seat, Hamirpur, after taking the caste combination into consideration.
Most of the candidates fielded by the BJP are considered to be close to Prof. Dhumal. The state poll results will be declared on December 18. Both the BJP and the Congress have been ruling the state alternately for close to three decades.