Himachal Pradesh occupies an important place in the history of the Bharatiya Janata party. It was at Palampur in HP way back in 1989 that the party’s national executive resolved to support the Ram Janmabhoomi movement spearheaded till then by the VHP and a motley group of priests. It was also the time when the party decided to align with the Shiv Sena. It was a turning point.
But while Himachal Pradesh is a small state and elects only four Lok Sabha Members, the state unit has always been faction-ridden. While Nadda will be expected to unite the factions , it also explains why factional leaders are not happy with his choice as national president.
Wouldn’t the party’s interests have been better served by someone from the bigger states as national president, wondered some of them aloud. Someone from UP, MP, Maharashtra or even from the South might have been a more effective national president, they felt. Their misgivings, however, were largely due to doubts about Nadda’s ability to hold the party together in the state.
But most party leaders in Himachal Pradesh point out that choice of Nadda was both predictable and perfect. A Brahmin who rose through the ranks in ABVP and Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), he has been a yes-man, they point out, and enjoy the reputation of never reacting to a provocation. Ideologically he is a perfect fit.
Moreover, Modi and Amit Shah, they say, cannot afford a political heavyweight as party president, someone from a big state like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh or for that matter even the south who might have an independent mind. They would rather have a ‘yes man’ from a small state that does not carry much weightage in terms of numbers at the national level, point out observers.
It is the appointment of Rajeev Bindal as state president that has puzzled party cadres as well as political observers more. “The message that the party high command has sent down the ranks is that it prefers a manager over a political leader,” quipped an insider.
Bindal has never been seen close to either of the factions, one led by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and others by two former chief ministers Prem Kumar Dhumal and Shanta Kumar. None of the factions is therefore quite comfortable with him as party president.
Party insiders say that Bindal was never happy being the Speaker of the state assembly after being denied a cabinet berth in the government that was formed under the leadership of Thakur who was an underdog till then. Dhumal had lost his own contest from Sujanpur on account of ‘sabotage from within’. His pride was salvaged to some extent when his son Anurag Thakur became a central minister.
While Thakur has the backing of Shanta Kumar’s faction that is said to be at logger heads with Dhumal group, things are not said to be well between Thakur supporters and those having allegiance to Dhumal camp. The recent investors’ meet at Dharamshala saw Thakur hogging all the limelight despite Anurag Thakur being the central minister of state for finance and corporate affairs.
“By imposing Bindal, BJP’s central leadership has tried to kill many birds with one stone. While both Shanta and Dhumal camps stand weakened, Bindal in all likelihood going to be a balancing force against Thakur and not allow the latter to have a free run in the state.
A section of the party cadres is not happy at ‘imposition’ of Bindal on them. BJP’s central leadership had sought Bindal’s resignation as health minister in 2012, they recall, only to placate him in the organization as a general secretary. This was the time when Bindal faced allegations of corruption which he kept denying vehemently.
Bindal was also accused of irregularities in the recruitment of Class IV employees in Solan Municipal Committee when Bindal was its chief in 1998. It was after the Jai Ram Thakur government came into power that the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau withdrew the case registered against him and others.
With five consecutive victories in state assembly polls from Solan and Nahan constituencies, Bindal does carry the reputation of being a good organiser and manager. But a large section of the BJP cadres see him in a different perspective.
“Bindal becoming the state unit chief is a defining moment for the party. The BJP will never be able to claim again that it is a party with a difference that plays by the book and believes in Sushasan (clean administration),” said a RSS affiliate in Solan.