New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday announced the name of Prem Kumar Dhumal as its chief ministerial candidate for the election to Himachal Pradesh assembly. A two-time chief minister, Dhumal's name was declared by BJP president Amit Shah himself.
The BJP had, in the past few elections, not declared its chief ministerial candidates. The cases in point are Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where the party waited until the results were out.
Speaking to News18, earlier in the day, Dhumal had dropped a hint that he would emerge as the party pick for the CM post. The 73-year-old leader will now challenge Congress' Virbhadra Singh in a direct fight to be held on November 9.
Two years away from BJP’s disqualifying age limit of 75 years, Dhumal said he will cross the river when he gets there.
This is the second instance, in the last one year, wherein the BJP has, for caste and political considerations, had to lower the age bar to accommodate a septuagenarian leader. In Karnataka, too, the party has had to back Lingayat heavyweight B S Yeddyurappa as the CM nominee.
Dhumal attacked the current Congress-ruled regime in the hilly state, saying it was the worst-performing government. “There has been a total halt on developmental works. There has been corruption and the law and order machinery has broken down. Dev Bhoomi is a drug Bhoomi now, and there are mafias everywhere - forest, liquor and transfer mafias,” Dhumal alleged.
Dhumal’s elder son Anurag Thakur - a Member of Parliament - is actively campaigning for the BJP from the Una constituency.
However, hitting out at the "dynasty system" in the Congress in which Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh's son Vikramaditya is contesting from Shimla Rural while Virbhadra has shifted to the Arki constituency, Dhumal said that dynasties that didn't take merit into consideration were faulty.
“Dynasties are there in politics, but to give tickets only on the basis of family relations is a problem. If someone gets tickets on their own merit but happens to be related to a political family, that cannot be a reason for disqualification,” Dhumal added.
When asked about the effect of demonetisation and GST on Himachal Pradesh voters, Dhumal said the effect had been negligible. “Demonetisation did not have even a single protest in Himachal Pradesh. As far as the GST is concerned, compensation limit has been increased to one crore rupees and filing of returns has been returned to a quarterly schedule,” Dhumal said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is once again expected to play a crucial role, for he was the state in-charge of Himachal Pradesh BJP from 1994 to 2000, and understands the state better than many within the BJP.