Success in politics did not come easy for Himachal Pradesh’s new chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, who made his electoral debut at the age of 33.
An active worker of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Thakur was elevated to the post of its state secretary in 1986.
He joined the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) — youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party — in the 90s after completing college.
Born in a poor family, Thakur will be the first Himachal Pradesh chief minister from Mandi district.
Here are the factors that swung things in his favour:
Union minister for health Jagat Parkash Nadda, who has ears of the BJP’s national president Amit Shah, was seen as the party’s obvious choice for the top job in the hill state. The party, however, changed its game plan fearing that the going could become tough and 10 days ahead of elections Shah projected Prem Kumar Dhumal as its chief ministerial candidate.
The BJP won 44 seats out 68 but the unexpected defeat of Dhumal and state unit chief Satpal Singh Satti forced the party to reconsider its chief minister’s choice. Thakur emerged as the front-runner along with Nadda as the names of another senior legislator Suresh Bhardwaj also did the rounds.
What really turned things in favour of Thakur is seemingly his strong RSS background. The Sangh favoured Thakur and overtly conveyed its choice as both central observers Nirmala Sitharaman and Narendra Singh Tomar met RSS functionaries to seek their opinion. A five-time legislator, Thakur also enjoys a personal rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Born in 1965, Thakur’s age also went in his favour. The saffron party looked for a young face in Himachal that could lead it for a longer tenure.
Massive mandate from Mandi
The Congress was completely routed in Mandi district where the BJP won nine seats of 10 and Independent candidate Parkash Rana won from Jogindernagar. In the Mandi parliamentary segment that comprises Kullu and Kinnaur district (also Rampur Bushahr in Shimla district), the party secured 13 seats. Former telecom minister Sukhram and his son former rural development minister Anil Sharma’s switching over to the BJP also helped.
Upper caste dominant politics
The Rajput community has been dominating Himachal Pradesh’s politics since the first assembly elections in 1967. Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar, the first chief minister of the state who ruled for four consecutive terms, was also a Rajput. Out of the five chief ministers, Himachal has seen, four belonged to the Rajput community.
Virbhadra Singh, who has served six terms and 22 years, is a Rajput and Thakur Ram Lal and Dhumal too belong to this community. The BJP’s Shanta Kumar, who led the state twice from 1977 to 1980 and 1990 to 1992, was the only Brahmin to hold this post.
Rajputs, who comprise 37.5% of the total population in Himachal, have a considerable population in almost all the assembly segments and hold sway over Mandi, Shimla, Kullu, Hamirpur and parts of Kangra.
Along with Rajputs, Brahmins also favoured Thakur.