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Dhumal’s loss puts focus on Nadda and BJP on Chief Minister search mode.

NEW DELHI: The shocking defeat of Himachal Pradesh BJP Chief Ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal in Sujanpur assembly segment has upset the BJP leadership applecart and put the party on the Chief Minister search mode.

Although, the BJP has romped home comfortably in the state but the loss of Mr. Dhumal, 73, to his former protégé and Congress candidate Rajinder Rana, has made the task of the party to find a successor to him a bit difficult.  

The party has been thrown into a tizzy and now has quickly gone into the search mode. Although the party has nominated Narinder Singh Tomar and Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman as party observers to chose a new head of the party legislature group, the race for the top position is restricted to very few names. The front runners include the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, J.P Nadda and former Minister, Jairam Thakur.

Five-time MLA, Jairam Thakur has emerged victorious from the Seraj assembly segment in Mandi district by a huge margin of around 10,000 votes. Not only this, it is for the first time that the BJP has swept the Mandi district winning all the 10 seats. Being a Thakur, which is a dominant caste in the state, Mr. Jairam, who has strong RSS roots, could be a surprise selection. However, Mr. Jairam, who was a Minister in the previous Dhumal government, has not been known to be a strong administrator and his performance as a Minister had left much to be desired.

Similarly, Mr. Nadda, who has risen from the ranks, has been a Minister in the Himachal Pradesh government on two occasions before migrating to Delhi to work with the central leadership. In fact, Mr. Nadda has been one of the rising stars of the party since the nineties and enjoys a good rapport with the local party leaders as well as the state cadres. However, he has been at loggerheads with Mr. Dhumal who would resist his installation in the state. But what could go in favour of Mr. Nadda is his administrative experience in handling the state and central government posts.

In fact, it is understood that former Chief Minister and Kangra strongman Shanta Kumar has thrown his weight behind Mr. Nadda while Mr. Dhumal has kept the cards close to his chest. What has added to the woes of the party and Mr. Dhumal is the lost of the state party president, Satpal Satti and another senior leader, Ravinder Ravi narrowing down the choice to these two leaders. However, it is Prime Minister, Narendra Modi who will take the final call on the issue of leadership in the state and one can expect a surprise from him. But Mr. Dhumal could still have a say in the given situation due to his personal equation with Mr. Modi.

On the other hand, Mr. Nadda is seen close to party national president Amit Shah and is currently working under Mr. Modi giving him access to the two most powerful people in the system. But what complicates the situation for Mr. Nadda or the party is the fact he is not a member of the state assembly and one of party's 44 MLAs will have to resign to enable him to seek an election.

The party is currently having internal consultations and a number of State leaders including some of the prominent MLAs who have won have been summoned by the party leadership to Delhi. A decision on the new Chief Minister will be taken in a day or two.

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