NEW DELHI — The suspense over Himachal Pradesh’s next chief minister mounted Dec. 19 as a few names, including five-time MLA Jairam Thakur and Union Minister J.P. Nadda, were circulated, while defeated chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal has not been completely ruled out.
Another senior leader, MLA Rajeev Bindal from Nahan, is also in the reckoning for the top post, as he apparently has the backing of a section in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Jairam Thakur defeated Chet Ram of the Congress to win the Seraj constituency.
"So far, the party has not decided who will be chief minister in the state. Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Narendra Singh Tomar will visit Himachal Pradesh to talk to party leaders in the state before deciding on the name," said a Bharatiya Janata Party source.
Sources in the BJP, however, did not rule out the possibility of choosing Prem Kumar Dhumal for the chief minister post. Although earlier Nadda's name was doing the rounds, Dhumal's name was announced as the party's chief ministerial candidate midway through the election campaign.
Dhumal, who had won the last election from Hamirpur constituency, had reservations about contesting from Sujanpur. But, the central leadership asked him to contest from there, and he faced defeat.
Dhumal was defeated by close rival Rajinder Rana of the Congress from Sujanpur. Rana was once Dhumal’s "election manager" and knows his family well. Rana defeated the two-time chief minister by a slender margin of 1,919 votes.
Meanwhile, BJP MLA Virender Kanwar, who won the Kutlehar seat, has offered to resign from his seat for Dhumal.
In Gujarat, although the BJP had announced Vijay Rupani's name as the chief ministerial candidate before the election, by appointing a team of observers under Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and party leader Saroj Pandey, the central leadership has kept the options open.
There were speculations that Union Minister Smriti Irani could be sent to Gujarat as chief minister as she represented the Rajya Sabha from the state.
However, certain quarters denied the possibility because of the responsibility given to Irani by the party leadership to counter Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in the next general elections.