India Today - - UPFRONT - —Asit Jolly

In the end, it was for­mer chief min­is­ter Prem Kumar Dhu­mal who was called on to pro­pose Jai Ram Thakur as the man who would oc­cupy the cov­eted ground floor of­fice of the chief min­is­ter’s sec­re­tariat in Shimla. The first whiff that five-time MLA Thakur, who, be­yond BJP cir­cles, is rel­a­tively un­known out­side Hi­machal Pradesh, could have a shot at chief min­is­ter­ship came mid­way into the count­ing of votes on De­cem­ber 18 when it be­came clear that nei­ther Dhu­mal nor BJP state unit chief Sat­pal Satti would win. Thakur emerged as the fron­trun­ner, with sev­eral se­nior BJP lead­ers in­di­cat­ing that the chief min­is­ter would nec­es­sar­ily have to be an elected leg­is­la­tor.

Thakur’s age (52) also ev­i­dently worked in his favour. He has won his home con­stituency of Seraj (for­merly Chan­iot) five con­sec­u­tive times. Thakur’s as­so­ci­ates de­scribe him as “ami­able and soft spo­ken” and a leader who, “with age on his side, can lead the party in many fu­ture elec­tions”. But what re­ally turned things Thakur’s way was his con­nect with the RSS. Well be­fore the De­cem­ber 24 meet­ing, se­nior RSS func­tionar­ies had con­veyed their choice to the BJP cen­tral ob­servers in Shimla. A full­time Akhil Bharatiya Vid­yarthi Par­ishad (ABVP) ac­tivist since his col­lege days in Mandi, Thakur was de­puted to Jammu and Kash­mir at the height of in­sur­gency in the early 1990s.

The new CM faces sev­eral chal­lenges, in­clud­ing keep­ing the party united as Dhu­mal still com­mands con­sid­er­able clout in the newly elected BJP leg­is­la­ture party. Thakur will also ur­gently need to ad­dress press­ing gov­er­nance is­sues, like tack­ling the state’s mount­ing Rs 45,000 crore debt bur­den, and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing law and or­der. The big­gest chal­lenge, though, will be em­ploy­ment. There are 300,000 of­fi­cially ac­knowl­edged job­less youth in the state even as lit­tle growth is pro­jected in key sec­tors like tourism, hor­ti­cul­ture and man­u­fac­tur­ing.

ALL SET Jai Ram Thakur with sup­port­ers in Shimla

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.