By: Ravinder Vasudeva
Shimla: With the political scenario finally settling in following the Lok Sabha polls, in Himachal all eyes are now fixed on reshuffling of ministerial berths in the state cabinet – a task long due, and, as admitted by chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal himself, now to be carried out within a month.
According to sources in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party high command has given Dhumal total power to change or choose new faces in the state ministry, but only after taking into confidence the organizational high-ups in the state. A close confidant of the chief minister’s office said BJP chief Rajnath Singh and senior leader LK Advani have also impressed upon allotting new cabinet berths on the basis of leads in the just concluded Lok Sabha polls.
This has resulted in almost every MLA, whose constituency gave leads to the BJP candidates in the Lok Sabha elections, has started lobbying for a ministerial berth. And a few, who were already in the ministry, have started approaching their political mentors in the BJP high command to save their chairs.
Transport minister Kishan Kapoor’s ministerial status is speculated to be in danger as he failed to manage a lead for the party candidate in Kangra Lok Sabha constituency. Kapoor is MLA from Dharamasala assembly segment. But since he is a close associate of former chief minister and senior BJP national vice-president Shanta Kumar, to remove him from the ministry will not be easy for the chief minister. However, If he exits the state cabinet, nobody from Kangra district is expected to replace him.
Another minister, ID Dhiman, currently holding the education portfolio may be moved from the ministry to the post of political advisor to the chief minister.
Mandi, deserving at least two cabinet berths, will prove a challenge for the chief minister as there seems to be a tough competition between former PWD minister and MLA from Dharampur assembly constituency Mahender Singh Thakur, state BJP chief Jai Ram Thakur and current PWD minister Gulab Singh Thakur. Among these, Mahender Singh can be gifted a ministry because he managed a lead of almost 14,000 votes for chief minister’s son Anurag Thakur. Party sources said Jai Ram is also interested in having a berth in the state cabinet and the party high command has already given a nod to his inclusion. To adjust these two bigwigs from Mandi district, Dhumal can replace PWD Minister Gulab Singh Thakur by making him the speaker of the Vidhan Sabha and shifting current speaker Tulsi Ram from Bharmour constituency of Chamba district as the minister for tribal affairs.
If Jai Ram becomes minister that will purely change the organisational set up of BJP in the state as the chief minister will surely want to capture that the state BJP chief for any of his confidants, as Jai Ram is considered to be loyal to Mahender Pandey, organizational secretary of BJP. In this scenario, health minister, Rajeev Bindal may be the choice of the chief minister for the top party post. And if Prem Kumar Dhumal does so, the person who can be inducted into the ministry from Solan district’s quota will be Nalagarh MLA Hari Narayan Saini, who gave a lead of about 8,000 votes for the BJP candidate from Shimla constituency.
From Una, Satpal Singh Satti’s inclusion in the ministry looks imminent. Before the Lok Sabha polls there was a tough competition from the district between Satii and Kutlehar MLA Virender Kanwar. But as Satti managed a lead of about 8,000 votes from Una constituency as compare to the lead of about 5,300 from Kutlehar by Kanwar, the former may be rewarded.
The coming days will unravel a new political scenario within the Himachal BJP. It will be interesting to see how chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal uses his skills to manage his flock, temper ambitions and soothe egos.