BJP supporters have been blaming Union Minister Anurag Thakur for the party’s infighting on social media after the BJP lost power in Himachal Pradesh to the Congress – somewhat souring its mega win in Gujarat.
Observers who tried to put the BJP loss in a broader context also joined in the gloating, as did Congress workers.
At least 21 of the 68 constituencies in Himachal, the home state of BJP national president JP Nadda, had BJP rebels. Two of them won, but others received significant votes that could have gone to the BJP if they had won.
There was three-way factionalism at play: Anurag Thakur and JP Nadda led one faction each, and Jairam Thakur’s faction led another.
Anurag Thakur, one of BJP’s big shots, was defeated by Priyanka Gandhi, who campaigned extensively in an otherwise lowkey Congress campaign.
Anurag Thakur shed a tear publicly in praise of his father, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who had lost last time despite being the BJP’s star candidate. Despite Mr Dhumal’s and the party’s insistence that he had chosen to retire, many saw the tears as a son’s helplessness.
In the event of a close result, Mr Dhumal was viewed as a potential wingman. The rebels were “part of our family” and “had their reasons”.
Twitter user compared this to “the effect of Narendra Modi in Gujarat” and questioned candidate selection, blaming Anurag Thakur and JP Nadda.
According to one, Anurag Thakur should be “sacked” from the party, and the Gujarat BJP chief should become the party’s national president, replacing JP Nadda.
In case the BJP bucked the state’s trend of changing the government every election, Anurag Thakur was seen in the race for Chief Minister with or without the rebels.
Despite the fact that the party had all but declared it would run under Jairam Thakur, besides banking on PM Modi’s charisma. Last time, Jairam Thakur wasn’t in the picture until Prem Kumar Dhumal lost and the party needed a replacement. As opposed to backing Mr Dhumal – he could have won in a byelection later – it went for a generational shift.
This was a prestige battle for Mr Nadda, once a minister under Prem Kumar Dhumal. In his words, “We respect the verdict. However, when the government changed, there would be at least a 5% difference in vote share. We are behind the Congress by less than 1%.”
At the time of filing of this report at 7 pm, Anurag Thakur had not tweeted about Himachal, though he retweeted PM Modi’s thank-you message.
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