PK Dhumal For Himachal Top Job? Decision Likely In Key Meet Today

Prem Kumar Dhumal's defeat to his one-time protege, has led to a peculiar situation for the BJP which netted an impressive 44 of the 68 seats in the assembly

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PK Dhumal For Himachal Top Job? Decision Likely In Key Meet Today

PK Dhumal's defeat to his one-time protege has led to a peculiar situation in Himachal Pradesh.

Shimla:  As central team of BJP leaders led by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is meeting the party's newly-elected legislators in Himachal Pradesh capital on Thursday, two more BJP lawmakers loyal to the chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal offered their newly-won seats to Mr Dhumal to keep him in the race for the hill state's top job. But sources suggest the 72-year-old two-time chief minister who lost his election, has a tough task keeping pace with the party's two younger leaders, Jai Ram Thakur, 52, and JP Nadda, 57.

Ms Sitharaman, accompanied by Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who were deputed to the state as observers by the BJP parliamentary board, will hold discussions with the lawmakers.

Jai Ram Thakur, considered the top contender, is a five-time lawmaker and has been seen as a Chief Minister-in-waiting for a long time. He was also the first one to hit the ground running and took a flight to Delhi as soon as news of PK Dhumal's imminent defeat emerged on Monday afternoon.

The former state rural development minister's supporters recall that BJP chief Amit Shah did announce at a public meeting on 1 November that Mr Thakur would get a "bara position" (a prominent role) once BJP assumes power. Considered a popular Thakur face, the lawmaker from Seraj constituency served as the BJP's state chief between 2006 and 2009 and was credited with striking a balance between the warring factions.

Union Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda, a Lok Sabha member from Bilaspur, is seen to be keen to get the top job in the state. He also has the ears of BJP president Amit Shah. A member of the 13-member BJP parliamentary board, the party's top decision making body, the union minister is seen as an able organiser and strategist.

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Seven years ago, Mr Nadda had such a falling out with PK Dhumal that he moved out of the state unit to join the BJP team in Delhi as a general secretary. He won his first assembly election from his hometown Bilaspur in 1993. Five years later when he was re-elected, then Chief Minister Dhumal inducted him in his team.

PK Dhumal, whose defeat to his one-time protege, has led to a peculiar situation for the BJP which netted an impressive 44 of the 68 seats in the assembly. The party had announced Mr Dhumal as its presumptive chief minister 10 days before elections, a departure from its usual strategy of not naming anyone for the top job. In his defence, loyalists say Mr Dhumal was rostered to hold rallies across the state though his seat had been changed at the last minute from his home district, Hamirpur. They also hint that the last-minute change of his seat could have been influenced by extraneous factors and suggest that over majority, about 26 legislators, were ready to support his claim if the party headquarters asks them for a view.

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