Shimla: Union health and family welfare minister, Jagat Prakash Nadda’s reported utterances at the BJP Prashikshan Shivir in Kullu, wherein he indicated return to the state politics in view of assembly polls in 2017, have caused a flutter in the BJP circles. “I am a staunch party man. I had resigned as a cabinet minister in Himachal to move to Delhi to serve the party. Even today, I am ready to take any responsibility entrusted by the party high command,” he said in reply to media queries on his plans to come back to the state.
Nadda is close to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and what he said is significant, especially as he is perceived as a rival of former BJP Chief Minister and leader of opposition, Prem Kumar Dhumal, who heads the dominant faction in Himachal. Since his elevation as the BJP national general secretary and then Union health minister in Modi cabinet, it was being construed that he would pose a challenge to Dhumal in the run up to polls in the race for chief ministership in next assembly polls.
It is now for the first time that Nadda has openly hinted at his possible return to home turf with a rider ‘‘if he is given the duty’’ and that has created ripples in the BJP. He had earlier been sharing even in his closer circles that he was happy being in Delhi. Sources in BJP said Dhumal’s supporters, who are particularly perturbed over Nadda’s dominance at the national scene, have a reason to worry more over his latest stance. “It will be a fight then for the top chair next time in case the BJP comes into power in 2017,” said sources close to Dhumal.
Dhumal, however, has been a popular leader from Hamirpur district in lower areas of Himachal Pradesh and has remained Chief Minister twice, from 1998 to 2003 and 2007-2012. He is known for his common appeal and good links with the Central BJP leadership. Nadda, 55, is much younger to Dhumal (72) and is a potential leader from Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh, who has strong roots in party organisation and the RSS. He has remained cabinet minister in Dhumal’s ministry in Himachal twice. In 2010, he was elevated as the national BJP general secretary.
He had then left his ministerial berth in HP and was later elected as Rajya Sabha MP from the home state. Nadda, who was promoted by senior most leader, Shanta Kumar initially, had switched to Dhumal camp before the 1998 assembly polls. Both Dhumal and Nadda had joined hands against Shanta then and Dhumal ultimately became the Chief Minister of Himachal first time in 1998 with the help of Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC). Later, however, said BJP sources, Dhumal and Nadda developed differences in the state politics.
At present, Nadda is not only stronger in the central politics, but also enjoys tacit support of Shanta Kumar. “Many young leaders in BJP internally envy the rise of Dhumal’s son, three times MP, Anurag Thakur (since he got the his first Parliament ticket on platter on Hamirpur seat in a by-poll in 2008 when Dhumal vacated it, switching back to the state politics again). They are silently supporting Nadda at the moment,” said BJP sources. The BJP sources said while Nadda will have to rough it out in the home state in the run up to polls to prove his worth in the field vis a vis Dhumal.
Many eyes are now set on the stance of three time state BJP President, Satpal Singh Satti, who, though perceived closer to the RSS group in HP (to which Nadda belongs)has not come out of Dhumal’s aura in running the party affairs. The Union health minister, Nadda’s utterances indicating his possible return to the state in the run up to assembly polls in 2017 causes flutter in BJP circles, bring worries for Dhumal’s supporters in Himachal pradesh
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