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Himachal: Thakur to stay but reshuffle in Cabinet, party likely before 2022 poll

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who returned here after attending a high-level party meeting in Delhi put a lid on all speculations about any change in the state leadership.

"The meeting in Delhi with national BJP president J P Nadda, also attended by state BJP president, state organising secretary Pawan Rana and party Incharge Avinash Rai Khanna was fixed 25 days back. We took a detailed review of the party's preparedness for the next Vidhan Sabha elections, and also for some bypolls likely to happen soon" he told the media.

Besides Mandi Parliamentary seat having fallen vacant on the demise of Ram Swaroop Sharma, a two–time BJP MP, three other byelections are scheduled for Arki (Solan) on account of the death of former CM Virbhadra Singh, Jubbal Kotkhai due to demise of BJP senior Narinder Bragta and Fatehpur been vacant since the death of former Congress minister Sujan Singh Pathania.

Though social media reports strongly speculated about chances of BJP affecting Gujarat–type change and the opposition leaders also fuelled rumours for their political mileage, alleging "failure of the incumbent leadership", the fact remained that the party has no such plans on Jai Ram Thakur.

There are also reasons for it. Thakur, a fifth-term MLA and former minister, comes from a very humble and poor background. During the past three and half years, the party did not come across any controversy involving him. The party cadres are solidly behind him as had been basically a RSS choice, even balancing the state's caste combinations since being a 'Rajput'.

He became Chief Ministerial choice after Prem Kumar Dhumal, party's projected CM, lost his election. Current BJP national president J P Nadda was also a contender for the post but RSS picked up Thakur making a generational change in the state politics.

Also, in its first, the state has a Chief Minister coming from Mandi — a politically significant district having 10 Assembly seats, all won by the BJP including its own rebel (now supporting the party). For more than one time, the party seniors including Prime Minister Narendra Modi had appreciated his handling of the Covid, vaccination drive (making Himachal Pradesh number one in the country for 100% success) and roping in new investments after he organised a global investors meet which Modi himself attended at Dharamshala in 2019.

The insiders, however, do point out that the party feedback and RSS inputs are quite disappointing for some of his Cabinet ministers, who not only failed to perform but also face simmering discontent. Few are also under clout for corruption.

It's quite likely that the Chief Minister may be asked to show doors to some of the ministers and replace them with persons having clean image, and are potential to win their seats.

The BJP has already made –up its mind to deny tickets to at least 20 to 22 sitting MLAs and these may also include some ministers.

Chances of the party having a new state president replacing Suresh Kashyap, MP from Shimla, are also not ruled out ahead of the 2022 polls. Though, after return, the Chief Minister said "the meeting yesterday had a different agenda, limited to the elections. The issue of changes in the Cabinet was not discussed".

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