The BJP swept Himachal Pradesh and won Gujarat in the state assembly elections.
Shimla: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman leads a central team of BJP leaders today to Himachal Pradesh, where they will meet the party's 44 newly-elected legislators. Ms Sitharaman will oversee the process of picking a chief minister after a peculiar problem cropped up for the party. It swept the election, but its chief ministerial candidate PK Dhumal lost. He remains in the race though, with his loyalists offering their newly won seats to him. In Gujarat, where the BJP has won a sixth straight term, outgoing Chief Minister Vijay Rupani is seen as the favourite, but there are other factors.
Here are the top 10 developments in this story:
- In Gujarat, Vijay Rupani, who took over last year as chief minister in the run-up to the elections is considered a stable, caste neutral choice for the party.
- Vijay Rupani has a clean image and is also seen as close to party chief Amit Shah who had said while campaigning that Mr Rupani was the party's choice for CM.
- But his critics say he has failed to deliver, with the BJP's victory margin over the Congress considerably lowered in this election. The BJP has won 99 seats in the 182-member assembly, just seven more than the majority mark of 92 and 16 seats less than it had in 2012.
- The BJP could opt for a Patel or Patidar chief minister like outgoing deputy CM Nitin Patel, to assuage the influential community.
- Patels have traditionally backed the BJP, but were upset this time over their demand for inclusion among castes that benefit from affirmative action not being met. A section of Patels voted against the BJP in this election.
- In Himachal Pradesh, the party had changed strategy to officially name the 73-year-old PK Dhumal, a two-time former chief minister, as its candidate for the top post.
- PK Dhumal's defeat in the Sujanpur constituency has thrown the field open, with other leaders like union Health Minster JP Nadda, senior Himachal BJP leader Jairam Thakur seen as contenders for the top post.
- Party sources have said that the BJP could opt for a Thakur leader, the dominant community in the hill state. Mr Nadda is a Brahmin.
- Some in the state party unit continue to bat for Mr Dhumal despite his defeat, with Varinder Kanwar, the MLA from Kutlehar, offering to vacate his seat for him. The BJP has 44 seats in the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly.
- The BJP has sprung surprises recently, picking Yogi Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh chief minister this year and Manohar Lal Khattar in Haryana in 2014.
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