Shimla: To ensure that factionalism did not mar the chances of BJP wresting power from the congress, the BJP high command was considering to keep both former chief ministers Prem Kumar Dhumal and Shanta Kumar away from contesting the assembly election, highly placed party sources disclosed.
“The party was not decided whether to have both the leaders contest the assembly election or not but the line that keeping both the leaders away from directly contesting the election, relieving them for campaigning throughout the state was gaining ground,” said the BJP leader, not wishing to be named.
Party insiders disclosed that the party high command had chosen not to play ball and is refraining from naming the chief ministerial candidate before completion of the election process.
When contacted, state party president Jai Ram Thakur said “the congress was reading too much into the functioning of BJP. The party was united and both Prem Kumar Dhumal and Shanta Kumar would jointly campaign in the elections.” Thakur refused to comment about whether both the leaders would contest the election or not.
With the BJP being riddled with factionalism, insiders maintained that the party high command had categorically asked the senior leaders to first ensure winning the state elections before the decision about who would be the chief minister is taken. “As both Dhumal and Shanta Kumar had their pockets of influence and by projecting one as the chief ministerial candidate, there could be a voter backlash in the area where the other leader enjoyed popularity,” said the BJP leader.
After BJP president Rajnath Singh kicks of the poll campaign for the 65 seats from Mandi on November 18, party cadres have an eye on distribution of party tickets to see who among the two senior leaders is favoured by the high command, he added.