Randhir Sharma tipped to be working president of Himachal BJP after Rajeev Bindal’s exit

SHIMLA: A day after Rajeev Bindal stepped down as the Himachal Pradesh BJP chief, party sources said that the high command is likely to appoint former Naina Devi legislator Randhir Sharma as working president till a new leader is elected.

The sources said the working president could be appointed in a day or two.

Sharma belongs to Bilaspur, the home district of BJP national president JP Nadda, and was in the race for the post in January also but the party favoured Bindal, who went on to serve as state unit chief for four months.

The sources said that eventually the state party chief’s post may go to Kangra district and bigger changes were likely in the Himachal unit.

However, in this entire episode, chief minister Jai Ram Thakur has strengthened his position.

Bindal, 56, had in a video message posted on social media, cited moral grounds for quitting the post on Wednesday after his name was indirectly dragged into a corruption case involving the state health department.

Incidentally, it was his second video message, the first was sent just an hour ago propagating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to organise a virtual rally on May 30 to highlight the achievements on the completion of one year of the National Democratic Alliance government’s second term.

Nadda accepted Bindal’s resignation within hours.

But this was the epilogue.

THE PROLOGUE

The events that unfolded when the BJP came to power in December 2017 provided a prologue to the episode. Bindal, a five-time legislator, was expecting an important berth in the government.

However, the power struggle that ensued due to the defeat of veteran leader Prem Kumar Dhumal in the assembly elections, resulted in Jai Ram Thakur becoming the chief minister and Bindal was made speaker of the Vidhan Sabha. All were happy except Bindal.

In 2020, amid several names doing the rounds for the new party chief, Bindal emerged as the final choice. Bindal said he was happier to serve in the organisation.

However, his elevation did not go down will with certain party leaders and they were waiting for an opportunity.

COUP-DE-GRÂCE

However, even his detractors hadn’t expected the moment to arrive so soon. What better time than during the Covid-19 pandemic. The day the medical equipment purchase scam in the state health department surfaced, hushed voices discussed its political connection.

Health department director Dr AK Gupta was suspended and arrested for the scam days before he was to retire. He was said to be close to several ruling party leaders and some of them had even proposed his name to the chief minister for an extension.

Initially, there were references and later fingers were directly pointed at Bindal. His detractors added fuel to the fire.

Tremors were also felt in the power corridors in Delhi. Unhappy with the whole episode, the high command discussed the issue with chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, while the Prime Minister’s Office appointed a nodal officer to oversee the probe.

Jai Ram Thakur is learnt to have told the high command that the scam had brought a bad name to the party and the state government, particularly after the name of a leader had cropped up.

The plot was enough to throw the captain out of the ship.

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