We will go little back. It was 24th of March, 1998. The place was the Lawns of Raj Bhawan, Shimla. The occasion was the swearing-in ceremony for first-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. And sitting on the dais among others was BJP national general secretary and the then incharge Himachal BJP, Narendra Modi. When Dhumal was taking the oath of office and secrecy there was a ‘winning smile’ on the face of Modi. And there was a reason to smile for Modi – after all Dhumal was his choice. Dhumal proved Modi right when he runs the BJP-HVC combined government for full five years despite having a very thin majority and time to time pressures from HCV Chief and former union minister Sukh Ram.
And after 19 years on December 27, 2017 at The Ridge, Shimla, again a BJP chief minister was taking the oath. Many senior BJP leaders were sitting on dais but the only change was that chief minister face was different and Modi was on the dais as Prime Minister of the country. Dhumal, who was Modi’s favourite in 1998 was sitting among the leaders just to watch Jai Ram Thakur takin the oath for the post, Dhumal was expected to take till a few weeks back, had he not lost the election. With young Jai Ram Thakur at the helm of affairs, a new era has started of politics in Himachal. And its major impact will be seen on opposition Congress, who till now was riding on the shoulders of 84-year-old warhorse Virbhadra Singh.
Many leaders in the Congress feel that it is an appropriate time hat high-command should pass the baton to young leadership in Himachal. â€œBJP has brought new leadership in front. We also need to follow the same strategy. Only then we will be able to counter the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections and later in the 2022 Assembly elections, said Raj Kumar Sharma, a former block Congress chief in Hamirpur district.
Though there is no indication from the BJP about the future of Dhumal, there are words doing the rounds that he may be given a berth in the Modi government or he may be appointed Governor to some state. Dhumal, considered to be a humble politician, is still a need for the BJP in 2019 Parliament elections as he holds the mass base in the hilly state. His importance can be judged from the fact that out of 11 ministers in Jai Ram ministry, as many as six are of his choice including senior MLA Kishan Kapoor from Kangra district, who was included in the list at the last moment with the efforts of Dhumal. Another important factor is that assembly constituencies of two ministers – Mahendra Singh and Bikram Singh – from Kangra and Mandi districts fall under Hamirpur parliamentary seat which is represented by Dhumal son Anurag Thakur.
â€˜No doubt Dhumal still is important for the party. He is 73 and can still work for another couple of years. He will play a major role in 2019 elections as he has good hold among Rajputs as well as Brahmins. He is also popular in the upper belt of Shimla, said Lokinder Kimta, who had come to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Jai Ram Thakur from Kotkhai.
Jai Ram Thakur, who belongs to a normal family is picked by the BJP as a long racehorse. He is 54 and can at the helm of affairs for another two decades, unless he fails. Interestingly seven out of 11 ministers are new. Only four old leaders have been given berths. This indicates that BJP has laid the ground for second rung leadership of the party in the hilly state. Though, the name of another young leader Anurag Thakur,Â three-time member Parliament from Hamirpur, is also considered as the future chief minister in the BJP.
Many feel that Jai Ram has to be strong so that bureaucracy remain under control.Â â€˜â€™Jai Ram is a gentleman in the state politics. It doesn’t mean he will not be able to make a firm grip on the bureaucracy. He has long experience in the administration as he had hold ministery in the previous Dhumal government, said a senior BJP leader.
Now main challenge in front of Jai Ram Thakur politically will be 2019 parliamentary election while on the government front he has a major challenge of bringing the hilly state out of whopping 50,000 crore debt. He also has to work on creating own resources for the state so that it could not see towards the Centre for everything. He is lucky that there is BJP-led government at the centre. ”Previous government failed in utilising the money provided by the Modi government. We will focus on this front and will make no stone unturned to make maximum use of central funds and bringing big projects to the state which will also help us in creating jobs, Jai Ram told the Tehelka. However, creating employment avenues will be a major challenge in front of him as the state has very limited private and industrial sector. Youth mainly depend on public sector jobs.
Chief Minister Jai Ram met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on December 29 and discussed various issues related to his state with him.Â Sources said that he also urged the Prime Minister for more funds to Himachal so that it could come out of its fiscal crises.
He also said that he will make every effort to low the financial load on the government by not making unnecessary appointments just to fill posts for political people.Â Interestingly, in the very first cabinet meeting chaired by Jai Ram directions were issued that all the recruitment process being carriedÂ outside from the purview of HPPSC and Service Selection Commission should be put on hold, all nominated chairmen and vice chairmen and membersÂ in various boards and corporations stand removed besides all on extension and re-employment should be ceased with immediate effect as of today. ”We have also decided to review all the decisions taken in the last six months by the previous government so that all political decision which was taken keeping in view of assembly elections are reviewed, said the chief minister.
Jai Ram holds the image of a clean leader and there is no controversy around him. He is also known as an accessible leader, like former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. It is a well-known fact that Dhumal even used to attend calls on his mobile when he was the chief minister from all who called him.
People in his home district Mandi are happy and feel that becoming of Jai Ram CM of the state will open road for more development of this district, which comprises many backward areas. Interestingly, Jai Ram is the first chief minister from Mandi in the history of Himachal Pradesh. ”Obviously people of the district have reason to smile. Right from employment to development, a chief minister can play a big role, said Birbal Sharma, a Mandi based senior journalist.
Rahul visits Shimla
The Congress president Rahul Gandhi n December 29 visited Shimla and took stoke of the party affairs after its defeat in he just concluded assembly elections. Newly elected MLAs have to elect Congress Legislative Party leaders soon. Sources said Rahul asked the leaders not to lose heart and work for ‘New Congress’. It is learnt that he said the party leaders that defeats are part of electoral politics and they need to word harder to revamp the party. The meeting was attended by the outgoing chief minister Virbhadra Singh, state Congress chief and any other senior leaders. It is said that Virbhdara Singh camp is trying to elect their leaders as CLP leader, however, the rival camp wants a new face on the chair. Meanwhile, Youth Congress president Vikramaditya alleged that youth wing leaders were not allowed to meet the Congress president. ”This is very unfortunate, he told The Tehelka.
MLA slaps Constable
Senior Congress MLA Asha Kumari indulged herself in a controversy at Shimla on December 29 during Rahul Gandhi visit to the Congress office. She was trying to enter the meeting venue but a woman constable tried to stop her. Angry Asha Kumari allegedly slapped her and in return constable also slapped her. This shocked people who were standing there in large number.
No topiwala CM
Jai Ram has broken a trend. He does not wear pahari topi like all his all predecessors. In fact topies till now were the party of politics in Himachal Pradesh and leaders were identified from their caps. For example green bushfire topi is related to former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who wears green cap. His followers in the Congress also wear the same cap. Former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal wears topi with red stripe while former chief minister Shanta Kumar wears Kulluvi topi with colored boxes on the stripe.Â People when visiting the state secretariate at Shimla, they also wear the caps which their leaders wear. Officials at the secretariat easily identify that who is from which party. Now the new chief minister Jai Ram do not wear any cap, this will be interesting to see whether his followers or BJP leaders stop wearing caps, which remains part of politics in the hill state for the last many decades.