This Article is From Nov 04, 2022

Video: Why Union Minister Anurag Thakur Breaks Down At Himachal Rally

Himachal Pradesh polls: BJP rebel number was touching 30 at one point, including MLAs denied tickets and others not chosen while in queue for years

Anurag Thakur teared up as he was upset that his father is sitting out


Tears of a central minister and a former royal are among signs of the BJP's fight to retain power in Himachal Pradesh, where it's facing rebel candidates on at least 19 of the 68 seats ahead of the November 12 election.

The Congress, which has managed to placate its own share of rebels who could make a significant dent, is confident that the hill state's “rivaaj”, or custom, helps it — that of changing the government every election.

The two BJP leaders who cried remain with the party, but viral videos are sending the message far.

Union Minister Anurag Thakur teared up as he was upset that his father — former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal who lost last time despite being the party's projected face — is sitting out. For the record, Mr Dhumal, 78, announced that he's retiring anyway.

“After 2017, was Dhumal-ji sitting at his home?” Mr Thakur, MP from Hamirpur, says in a video of him choking up while trying to placate supporters, “There was just one leader in the entire state who went to every polling booth; did not even care about his health. Will he weaken an organisation to which he has dedicated himself?”

In Kullu, “Raja” Maheshwar Singh, a member of the erstwhile royal family who's remained MLA multiple times, got no seat to fight this time. He couldn't hold back tears at a rally where BJP national chief JP Nadda, once a minister in Himachal's Dhumal government, was on stage.

“I've had a beautiful political journey,” Maheshwar Singh said in his speech, and then requested JP Nadda to complete his unfinished work, eventually choking up and returning to his chair.

He is one of 11 sitting BJP MLAs who haven't got the ticket this time as the party relied on an internal survey. Of these, two are in the contest as independents now, while five former MLAs have filed their papers too.

One of the rebels is Kishori Lal, who was an MLA from Ani in Kullu for two consecutive terms.

Campaigning on the shoulders of supporters dancing to a Pahari song, he told NDTV that none could convince him to stand down. “I was sitting at home but my supporters started crying,” he said, “Their feeling was that I should contest.”

He added, “I got calls from Nadda ji and Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, too, but I won't have stood down even if Prime Minister Narendra Modi called.”

Other such big names include Hoshiar Singh, MLA from Dehra; and former MLAs Tejwant Negi and KL Thakur, from Kinnaur and Nalagarh, respectively.

The rebel number was touching 30 at one point — some upset at not being trusted again, others at not being chosen despite being in queue for years.

Chief Minister Thakur did acknowledge the problem but feels a Modi wave will take care of everything. “We managed to convince many of them. But there is no meaning of any rebellion in front of Prime Minister Modi's face,” he said.

“Dhumal saab, Shanta Kumar, everyone is campaigning,” Mr Thakur told NDTV earlier this week.

He denied that there was sympathy for the Congress after the death of several-times chief minister Virbhadra Singh, whose wife Pratibha Singh is the state Congress chief and their son Vikramaditya Singh is again a candidate.

The Congress sees BJP rebels as a factor that'll help it return to power — no matter the confusion over who's its own clear leader in the state.

“We had some dissatisfied leaders, too; but we managed to bring them around,” said senior Congress leader Anand Sharma. “BJP's leaders are fighting among themselves in Kangra, Mandi, Kullu-Manali, where Congress candidates will succeed easily,” he claimed.

The AAP, hoping to extend its Delhi and Punjab success to Himachal — after a drubbing last time — is also terming the BJP a "divided house".

The BJP is pushing its star power in the last few days before voting, with rallies by PM Modi and senior leaders Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari.

“Yes, it has been a custom here that the government changes in every election,” said the Chief Minister, “But in many states the BJP has changed this custom.”