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BJP pitches for Dhumal
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 26
The BJP today decided to project former Chief Minister and Hamirpur MP Prem Kumar Dhumal as its chief ministerial candidate, sidetracking the claim of another former Chief Minister Shanta Kumar for Himachal Pradesh's top job.

The decision was arrived at a meeting of the party's Parliamentary Board attended attended by both Dhumal and Shanta Kumar.

Addressing mediapersons after the 90-minute meeting, BJP president Rajnath Singh said the board had unanimously decided to project Dhumal as the party's chief ministerial candidate while Shanta Kumar had been asked to play a role in national politics.

Rajnath Singh said the decision was taken after detailed consultations with state leaders.

This would mean that Dhumal would move back to state politics. At that time, the party high command had given an understanding to Shanta Kuamr that he would be the party's candidate in the Assembly elections but within a few months, the former Chief Minister's claim has again been sidelined. Once the party felt that it has a fair chance of winning the Assembly elections, it decided to project Dhumal ignoring Shanta Kumar's work and claim, a senior leader observed.

Dhumal, accepting the party's decision, said he would work for the party's success under the guidance of Shanta Kumar.

Like a disciplined soldlier of the party, Shanta Kumar said that he would work for the party's success.

Pratibha Chauhan adds from Shimla:

It is learnt that Shanta Kumar was assured by the top brass that he would be suitably accommodated at the Centre.

It is reliably learnt that the high command took a decision in favour of Dhumal, mainly to counter the regional divide which would have adversely affected the party in the 18 assembly segments in the three districts of Shimla, Solan and Sirmaur.

“The moment Shanta Kumar’s name is mentioned, there is clear-cut polarisation into upper and lower Himachal which proves to be damaging for the BJP which only has three MLAs out of a total of 18 falling under Shimla parliamentary constituency,” admitted a senior leader.

Even though the decision to project Dhumal over Shanta might affect the BJP’s poll prospects in Kangra but the party decided to take the risk to ensure that the party fares better in old Himachal.

With the BJP confident of making a comeback in the hill state, the high command was of the opinion that projecting one against the other would only make a marginal difference in the prospects of the party in Kangra, which is politically most significant with 16 assembly segments.

It was felt that being from the middle belt of Hamirpur, Dhumal had better acceptability in upper Himachal, where the BJP is desperate to improve its performance.

The fact that the employees, who constitute a sizeable chunk of the electorate in Himachal were not too favourably inclined towards Shanta Kumar also helped the decision go in favour of Dhumal.

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