Shimla, Oct 31 Ending days of speculations, the BJP on Tuesday announced Prem Kumar Dhumal would be its Chief Ministerial candidate in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh.
Addressing a public meeting in Rajgarh in Sirmaur district, BJP President Amit Shah said Virbhadra Singh, instead of talking about his work and responding to allegations of corruption against him, was only persistently asking them at all public platforms under whose leadership was the BJP contesting the polls.
“Throughout the country we are contesting under the leadership of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi… in Himachal Pradesh, the BJP is contesting under the leadership of Dhumal,” he said, drawing loud applause from the gathering.
“I want to tell Virbhadra Singh that the 2017 election would be contested under the name and leadership of our senior leader Dhumal,” Shah said.
The ruling Congress has already announced incumbent Virbhadra Singh as the next Chief Minister, if it retains power.
Shah, who started his five-day visit to the state on Monday, said: “I want to say this thing also that at present Dhumal is the former Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and after December 18, Dhumal would be the Chief Minister.”
However, the 73-year-old Dhumal, who is a two-time Chief Minister, was not present at the rally when his name was announced. In a tweet in Hindi later, he extended gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah on behalf of the the state’s people.
Elections to the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly will be held on November 9 and the votes counted on December 18 along with Gujarat.
Taking the lead after months of speculation and turmoil within the party, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on October 7 announced at a public meeting in Mandi town that Virbhadra Singh will “become the Chief Minister for the seventh time”.
Clearly indicating the party stands behind Singh, who is facing cases related to disproportionate assets, he said: “Virbhadra Singh ji has done tremendous development as six-time Chief Minister. He will be the Chief Minister for the seventh time. This will have full backing of the party.”
Since then the opposition BJP has facing posers from the Congress over their party leader.
“Till this announcement of Dhumal, there was too much confusion over who is to lead the party,” a senior state BJP leader, who did not wish to be identified, told.
“At least it’s clear now,” he added.
Earlier, the party was divided in two camps — one led by Dhumal and the other by Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda.
In the 2012 elections to the 68-member assembly, which saw a voter turnout of 73.92 per cent, the Congress won 36 seats, the BJP 26 and Independents six.
But in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won all the state’s four seats with a vote percentage of 53.85 per cent, while the Congress got 41.07 per cent votes.