Encouraged by recent political developments in neighbouring Uttarakhand, some disgruntled Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in Himachal Pradesh patronised by former Chief Minister Shanta Kumar are also planning a defection in the name of forging an anti-graft front.

Interestingly, Mr. Kumar, who is also a national vice-president of the party, first encouraged these leaders to form a separate front and question the leadership of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and then issued a statement claiming that he is pained and anguished by the recent dissidence in the party.

The BJP stalwart issued a statement from Surat in Gujarat a few days back that his supporters committed a major mistake by forming a separate group (Himachal Brashtachar Mukti Morcha) in the name of fighting corruption. He had claimed that these dissident leaders met him and discussed their grievances and seclusion in the party. He said a proper and patient hearing should have been given to these leaders by the State party president and other functionaries. But since they had been denied this opportunity, they preferred to split and formed an anti-corruption forum.

No role

Claiming that he had no role in the latest defection in an otherwise strongly knit party, Mr. Kumar said it happened in his absence from the State.

He said that he is the only surviving founder-member of the BJP in the hill State and had spent more than six decades in the organisation. “I am pained and upset by the recent developments and do not want these senior leaders to be mistreated and ignored since they also had played a significant role in the development of the party in Himachal,” he said. The party's Central leadership should give an audience to these displeased cadres, he stated.

The dissidents have formed the Morcha with former party State president and former MP Maheshwar Singh as its convenor and various Shanta protégés as other office-bearers.

The theory floated by these leaders is that if the top leadership is replaced by Mr Kumar for the Vidhan Sabha elections next year, the party is sure to repeat its earlier feat in the hill State.