Khimi Ram to remain Himachal BJP chief

Shimla, Feb 2 (Calcutta Tube) Khimi Ram, the incumbent president of the Himachal Pradesh unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will retain his post. BJP national president Nitin Gadkari has cleared his name, a senior party leader said here Tuesday.

‘After more than four hours of deliberations, BJP national president Nitin Gadkari late last (Monday) night finally cleared the name of Khimi Ram, to be formally elected as the state president,’ the BJP leader said.

Khimi Ram, a second-time legislator from Banjar in Kullu district, was unanimously elected president in July last year after Jairam Thakur, who headed the state unit, was inducted into the state cabinet.

Party insiders said Gadkari had to step in after top state party leaders, including Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and former union minister Shanta Kumar, failed to arrive at a consensus on the name of the party president.

The election to choose the president, slated for Jan 30, was called off two days before the poll due to lack of consensus.

Sitting cabinet minister J.P. Nadda, a close confidant of Gadkari, was considered the hot contender for the post. He was supported by the Shanta Kumar camp.

A senior party official said Gadkari is keen to induct Nadda, state’s forest minister, in his national team.

However, after the high command gave nod to the name of Khimi Ram, an open rift between the Dhumal and Shanta camps surfaced.

Shanta Kumar, a two-time former chief minister, on reaching his residence Tuesday evening at Palampur in Kangra district, broke his silence and aired his resentment against Khimi Ram being re-named the state party chief. He was the first BJP leader to criticise his party’s government over the release of three CDs here, one of which points fingers at Dhumal.

Two audio and one video were sent to select journalists, legislators and high court judges Jan 19 here.

In the alleged conversation recorded in one of the audio CDs, Director General of Police (Vigilance) D.S. Manhas is asking Dhumal about tapping the phones of Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife. At this, a voice sounding like Dhumal is heard replying: ‘Do it.’

‘I have given my opinion and left it to the party high command to decide on the issue (state BJP president). Whatever the high command has decided, is final…but I am not coming to Shimla tomorrow (Wednesday) for the election of the new BJP chief,’ Shanta Kumar told IANS over the phone.

He, however, did not cite any reason for not coming to Shimla.

A senior party leader said supporters of Shanta Kumar raised slogans against Dhumal and his close confidants when Shanta Kumar reached his residence.

BJP spokesman Ashok Kapatia said the election to choose a new BJP president for three years would be formally held Wednesday.

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