Himachal Pradesh 2017

Popularity tilted scales in Dhumal’s favour

Former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The surprise announcement by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah that two-time Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal will be the party’s chief ministerial face yet again for the upcoming polls in the State has brought an end to the suspense over the leadership of the State unit.

For long, the question of who would be the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, should the BJP win the polls due on November 9, had been hanging fire, the choice veering between Mr. Dhumal and Union Minister for Health J. P. Nadda. The mid-campaign announcement took everyone by surprise, party sources said.

“We have been looking at periodic voter preference surveys coming out of Himachal Pradesh and one thing was getting clearer by the day, that we needed to sharpen the campaign by projecting a face against Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. Mr. Dhumal was far ahead in the popularity stakes, and importantly, also belongs to Mr. Singh’s Thakur community which is the most dominant community in the State,” said a senior general secretary of the BJP.

“Mr. Nadda could also have been a viable choice. He has served in the State government in the past, but his mass base in the State has shrunk since he left it for Delhi and the party president felt Mr. Dhumal could carry the election successfully,” said the office-bearer.

Ticket distribution

While surveys may have given Mr. Dhumal the edge and helped Mr. Shah make the decision, the fact remains that it was being given serious thought, if one looks at the ticket distribution. Mr. Dhumal has had his way, especially for seats in lower Himachal where he hails from, with tickets generously awarded to his known loyalists. “Dhumalji’s chances brightened after the tickets were announced. Despite Naddaji also being from the same area, his people were not accommodated to the same degree,” said the source. This indicates that Mr. Nadda’s chances were dim even before the surveys.

In the end, party leaders said Mr. Dhumal’s popularity and the fact that he stuck to State politics won the day for him.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 6:31:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/himachal-pradesh-2017/popularity-tilted-scales-in-dhumals-favour/article19969535.ece

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