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With several BJP states witnessing a leadership change in the past few months, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur’s second visit to the national capital in a week has triggered speculation of a similar reshuffle for the poll-bound hill state. Last week, Vijay Rupani of the BJP had resigned as CM of Gujarat, where Assembly polls are slated for 2022.

BJP sources, however, said Thakur was recalled to Delhi to discuss the party’s strategy for the upcoming bypolls in the state.

Thakur, who was in Delhi last week to formally invite President Ram Nath Kovind as well as other Union ministers for the golden jubilee of the statehood day, returned to the national capital Tuesday. This sparked rumours that he was summoned by the leadership to discuss a prospective change of guard in Himachal Pradesh.

“The CM is in the national capital to discuss the bypolls. Preparations have to begin for the Assembly elections and strategies have to be formed to counter the Congress, the anti-incumbency factor and to tackle the resentment over the factionalism in the state unit,” said a BJP leader familiar with the developments.

While sources in the RSS too said that there was no danger to Jai Ram Thakur’s position as CM, some state BJP leaders said that he might be ordered to step down.

Right before stepping in for the organisational meeting, the CM mocked the Congress for spreading rumours that there might be a change of guard in Himachal.

Asked about his second visit to Delhi within a week and if there will be a reshuffle in his Cabinet, Thakur said that these questions were meaningless as of now. He added that his present trip to Delhi was scheduled 20 days ago.

Sources said that apart from leaders from the high command, Tuesday’s organisational meeting was being attended by BJP’s state incharge Avinash Rai Khanna and state BJP president Suresh Kashyap.

UPCOMING BYPOLLS
The party is preparing for the Lok Sabha bypoll in Mandi, which has 17 Assembly segments within it, and bypolls in three other Assembly constituencies.

The election to the Mandi seat was necessitated after MP Ram Swaroop Sharma of the BJP was found dead at his official residence in Delhi in March.

“Sharma’s suicide has been made a weapon against the BJP by the Opposition, which says he was under pressure from the BJP central leaderhip,” said a source from Shimla.

“The Congress is expected to field Virbhadra Singh’s widow in the seat. The loyalty of the voters in that region for the family and the sympathy factor could make it tough for the BJP. The chief minister, therefore, needed to hold talks with the BJP as well as Sangh leaders,” the source added.

The election to Jubbal-Kotkhai in Shimla district was necessitated after the death of BJP MLA Narinder Bragata while that of Kangra after the demise of Congress MLA Sujan Singh Pathania. The byelection to the Arki seat has been called owing to the death of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

THAKUR SAFE: BJP SOURCES
Meanwhile, BJP sources ruled out the prospects of a leadership change in Himachal as Thakur has earned goodwill as a chief minister who has managed Covid pandemic situation relatively well.

“Be it getting the pharma sector active for multiplying production of the medicines like Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) or handling the Covid restrictions without creating hurdles for the manufacturers or in the vaccination field, Himachal is the first state in the country to have achieved the 100 per cent target of administering the first dose of vaccine for 18 years and above, or in providing financial assistance for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic, the government has done a fairly good job,” said a central BJP leader.

During an “Akrosh Rally” against the Thakur government in Kullu on Monday, Congress leaders Vikrmaditya Singh and Mukesh Agnihotri had claimed that BJP was going to change all its Chief Ministers in BJP-ruled states.

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