After the BJP lost power in Himachal Pradesh to the Congress — somewhat souring its mega win in Gujarat — Union Minister Anurag Thakur, who is MP from the hill state, came under fire on social media from BJP supporters blaming him for the party's infighting.
The BJP lost all five seats that fall in Anurag Thakur's home district of Hamirpur.
Congress workers also jumped in on the trend, gloating, as did observers who sought to put the BJP loss into a wider context.
Himachal, home state of BJP national president JP Nadda, saw BJP rebels in at least 21 of the 68 constituencies. Only two of them won, but others got significant votes that may ideally have gone to the BJP.
Overall, three-way factionalism was seen at play: Anurag Thakur and JP Nadda leading a faction each, and third one was loyal to Chief Minister Jairam Thakur.
Twitter user Dushyant A said Priyanka Gandhi, who campaigned extensively in an otherwise lowkey Congress campaign, had defeated BJP's big shots, including Anurag Thakur.
In a head to head contest, in Nadda's state, in Anurag Thakur's state, against the might of the BJP's money, media and institutions, Priyanka Gandhi has defeated Modi.— Dushyant A (@atti_cus) December 8, 2022
Anurag Thakur even shed a tear publicly "in praise of the hard work" of his father, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who had lost last time despite being projected as the BJP's main man. Many saw the tears as a son's helplessness over his father not being given the ticket, though Mr Dhumal and the party insisted he had chosen to retire.
Yet, Mr Dhumal was seen as a potential wingman if the BJP needed to woo the rebels in case of a close verdict. He had said that the rebels were "part of our family" and "have their reasons".
A Twitter user contrasted this with "the effect of Narendra Modi in Gujarat" and questioned candidate selection, blaming it on Anurag Thakur and JP Nadda.
Choice of candidates by JP Nadia & Anurag Thakur is questionable— Flt Lt Anoop Verma (Retd.) 🇮🇳 (@FltLtAnoopVerma) December 8, 2022
If a rebel is winning means the rebel was right candidate
Also the home state of BJP Chief Nadda? Any effects of that?
Look at the effect of Narendra Modi on his Home State Gujarat
If BJP means business then act
Another went a step ahead, suggesting that the Gujarat BJP chief be made the national president of the party, replacing JP Nadda; and that Anurag Thakur be "sacked from the party".
I am presuming C. R. PATIL new BJP president on card. Great leader with thumping majority in Gujarat. Anurag Thakur should be sacked from BJP for family politics over and above party lines.— 🇮🇳🌞 GIREESH JUYAL 🇮🇳🌞जय श्री राम, (@juyal3405) December 8, 2022
With or without the rebels, in case the BJP had bucked the state's trend of changing the government every election, Anurag Thakur was seen as being in the race for Chief Minister.
This, even though the party had all but declared that it was fighting the polls in the leadership of incumbent Jairam Thakur, besides banking on the charisma of PM Narendra Modi. Even Jairam Thakur was nowhere in the picture last time until Prem Kumar Dhumal lost and the party needed a replacement. It had chosen not to back Mr Dhumal — he could have got elected in a bypoll later — and had gone in for a generational shift instead.
For Mr Nadda, once a minister under Prem Kumar Dhumal, this was a prestige battle. He said the loss needed to be seen in data context: "We respect the verdict. But earlier when the government would change, there would be at least 5 per cent difference in vote share. We are behind the Congress by less than 1 per cent."
Anurag Thakur also had not sent out any tweet about Himachal at the time of filing of this report at 7 pm, though he retweeted PM Modi's thank-you message to the voters.