BJP in damage control mode as rebels form new outfit in HP

No chance of returning to the party, says Maheswar Singh

A new political outfit, Himachal Lokhit Party, formed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rebels last week has turned into a headache for the ruling party in Himachal Pradesh. 

Perturbed over the exodus of party leaders to the Himachal Lokhit Party, led by four-time former MP Maheshwar Singh, the party high command has gone into damage-control mode.The high command has deputed two central leaders - JP Nadda, a former Himachal minister, and Shyam Jaju, co-in charge of state's party affairs - to look into the reasons for dissent among the party cadre and the allegations of corruption against top functionaries in the state. 

BJP state general secretary Ram Swaroop said on Sunday that Nadda and Jaju would hold consultation with party workers, top party functionaries and state office-bearers to prepare a road map for the assembly elections.
 A senior BJP functionary said the high command has rushed the central leaders after party national vice-president and MP Shanta Kumar refused to intervene in the state's affairs. 

Prominent leaders

The new outfit was floated by BJP dissidents on February 3. Besides Maheshwar Singh, former speaker of the state assembly Radha Raman Shastri and two former ministers Shyama Sharma and Mohinder Sofat are among the prominent leaders who resigned from the party to join it.
 Party leaders said Shanta Kumar at a meeting called by party BJP chief Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi on February 8 openly aired grievances against Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his MP son Anurag Thakur - over allegations of corruption, illegal purchase of land and assets and their style of functioning. 

"Shanta has categorically told Gadkari that he is out of the party affairs (in the state) and he would not intervene at this point in time when some leaders have already quit the party. 

He was also aghast over the delay of the high command in redressing grievances of the dissidents," a party leader said. He has also conveyed to Gadkari that though he has not been attending the state executive meetings for over two years on issues involving corruption, the party organisation has never tried to sort out the matter. 

Along with Shanta, the meeting with Gadkari was also attended by Dhumal, Nadda and Jaju. 

Ahead of the visit of the central leaders, Maheshwar Singh categorically stated that there is no chance of his return to the saffron party with which he was associated for over four decades. "There is no point of holding talks or rapprochement with the BJP central leaders. We are now focusing on strengthening our own party," he said. 

At the time of floating the party, Singh had alleged that top party functionaries, including Dhumal and his MP son, are neck deep in corruption. "They are involved in illegal property transactions and promotion of realtors. The entire state is up for sale," he said. He alleged that even the party high command has "become a party to the corrupt deals" of Dhumal and his cabinet colleagues, including Health Minister Rajeev Bindal. 

Interestingly, Shanta's loyalists, comprising two ministers and three legislators, are also upset with Dhumal's style of working. They stayed away from the public rally attended by Gadkari in Kullu, the hometown of Maheshwar, on the completion of four years of the state government December 29 last year.

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