Himachal BJP’s infighting, another headache for Gadhkari

Shimla: Meddling in the faction ridden state party unit for a second time in a month, BJP president Nitin Gadkari has stepped in again to end in-fighting in Himachal Pradesh as the party gears up for the assembly polls ahead.

This time, trouble began when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vice president Shanta Kumar lodged a protest with Gadkari against the behaviour of state cabinet minister Ravinder Ravi, a confidant of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. Angry with the minister, Shanta Kumar even threatened to quit from all party posts.

Sensing trouble, Gadkari summoned Dhumal’s four cabinet ministers — Ravi, Rajeev Bindal, Kishan Kapoor and Ramesh Dhawala — to Delhi Friday and tried to break the ice.

While Ravi and Health Minister Bindal are close to Dhumal, Industries Minister Kishan Kapoor and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ramesh Dhawala are Shanta Kumar’s loyalists.

Ravi, Kapoor, Dhawala and Shanta Kumar belong to Kangra, the state’s biggest district with 15 assembly seats.

A senior party leader said Gadkari categorically told the minister to end the bickering and work with others to bring the BJP back to power in the state.

Gadkari, party leaders said, would again meet Shanta Kumar and Dhumal next weekend and try to reconcile their differences.

This time, the provocation between the Dhumal and Shanta Kumar camps began when Ravi tried to sabotage a party’s function in his constituency Monday where Shanta Kumar was the chief guest.

“Shanta was really miffed at the manner in which Ravi reportedly tried to sabotage his public function. He conveyed his displeasure to Gadkari at the state of affairs in the party and said the party’s ‘Mission Repeat’ (winning the assembly polls again) is not possible without taking some hard steps,” said a party leader, who did want to be named.

Besides Shanta Kumar, BJP minister from Punjab Chuni Lal Bhagat was also present at the function.

“Ravi did not attend the function and told the government officers not to attend it. He did not even receive the senior minister from Punjab, which was humiliating,” said another leader, who too did not want to be named.

Angered over Ravi’s action, BJP’s Kangra unit subsequently passed a resolution demanding the removal of Ravi from the cabinet.

At the meeting, Dhawala, Kapoor and three legislators were present.

Party insiders said Gadkari had held a meeting of the core group of leaders in Nahan May 9 and tried to reunite Dhumal and Shanta Kumar.

At the meeting, Gadkari tried to keep Shanta Kumar and Dhumal in good humour by saying that the latter had to adhere to the advice of the former.

State BJP leaders said during the meeting Shanta Kumar categorically told Gadkari that he would not attend the state executive meetings till steps were taken to stem corruption within the party.

In keeping with this stand, Shanta Kumar, a former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, is still keeping himself away from the state politics.

Agencies

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