The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday decided to project senior leader Prem Kumar Dhumal as its chief ministerial candidate for the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, ending uncertainty about the leadership issue.
The surprise decision was taken at a meeting of the party's Parliamentary Board, its highest decision making body, in New Delhi today morning. The meeting was attended by both Dhumal and veteran leader Shanta Kumar, who was also in the race for the top post.
Senior leaders Lal Kishen Advani, Jaswant Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj were also present at the meeting.
After the 90-minute meeting, BJP chief Rajnath Singh said the Parliamentary Board has unanimously decided to project Dhumal as the party's leader in Assembly elections while Kumar will work at the central level.
Singh added that the decision was taken after consultations with the state leaders.
The move came as a surprise as senior leaders in Himachal Pradesh have been saying that the BJP will not project a chief ministerial candidate as such a decision could lead to divisions and spoil its electoral chances in the mountain state.
Dhumal, 63, was the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh from 1998 to 2003. He presently represents the Hamirpur constituency in the Lok Sabha. He had been elected to the Lok Sabha twice earlier.
Kumar exuded confidence that the BJP will come to power with a comfortable majority and rubbished talks of division in the state unit. "Unity has always been there and will remain," he declared.
Dhumal said he will work with full cooperation and guidance from Kumar.