Heartache for Dhumal as BJP ducks CM question

Bucking a three-decade tradition in Himachal Pradesh, the BJP has decided to enter this election without naming a chief ministerial candidate, much to the chagrin of former top man Prem Kumar Dhumal.

The 73-year-old veteran has been the face of the saffron party and had been used to being declared the chief ministerial face before each of the previous elections.

Sources, however, revealed that the leadership wants to keep the door open for a change of guard, post the elections.

Despite strident denials, the move is said to keep the chief ministerial chair ready for Union Health Minister J P Nadda in the event that the BJP emerges victorious in the polls, slated for November 4. 

Dhumal's loyalists see this as an attempt to dwarf their leader, dampening the spirit of the party's rank and file ahead of the poll preparation. They also hope that a change of heart would eventually see their man being put back at the helm once again.

They hope Dhumal's anointment as the chief ministerial candidate happens when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the state in November to campaign for the party. 

Dhumal is toeing a careful line, holding back hostility and merely expressing disillusionment for not having been projected as the party's face. "This has always been the norm. This is a decision for the central leadership," Dhumal insisted.

The BJP is non-committal for the time being about Nadda, aware that his entry into the state will significantly alter the political scene that would only brew dissent among the Dhumal loyalists.

The former chief minister enjoys mass support and knows the hill state too well and therefore, is not one to be antagonised before the election.

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