A SECOND TERM FOR RUPANI
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