Battle for Himachal: Can Dhumal spring a surprise?
Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) [India], December 18 (ANI): As the results of Himachal Pradesh elections are all set to be announced soon, all eyes are set on two experienced men. Who would take the state's top job - the six-time chief minister, Virbhadra Singh of Congress, or Bharatiya Janata Party's Prem Kumar Dhumal, who had twice been the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh? As this question lingers for now, let us trace the journey of the two-time chief minister. Prem Kumar Dhumal, popularly known as P. K. Dhumal, was born into a strict Brahmin family on April 10, 1944, in Samirpur Village of Hamirpur district. He holds M.A and L.L.B degrees following his education at Doaba College in Jalandhar and Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar. Dhumal's son Anurag Thakur is a politician as well. He has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 2004 and Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Himachal Pradesh since 2008. Thakur holds the distinction of being the first person from a political family to hold the post of the President of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in May 2016, before he was sacked from his post in January this year due to the implementation of Lodha recommendations. Dhumal first became the vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in 1982. In 1984, he was selected as the candidate for the Hamirpur parliamentary constituency. He was finally elected as the MP from Hamirpur in 1989 and 1991. He has also served as a member of several important panels of the Parliament such as Consultative Committee, Ministry of Communication, Standing Committee on Transport and Tourism Railway Convention Committee from 1989 to 1996. Dhumal was first elected to the state assembly in 1998 and again in 2003. At that time, he was sworn in as the chief minister of the state, between 1998 and 2002. He was again elected for a second term between 2007 and 2012. During his two stints as chief minister, the hill state saw significant infrastructure developments, particularly of roads. He also oversaw the development of new railway lines as well. This gave rise to Dhumal being called as the 'sadak walla mukhyamantri'. Dhumal is also credited for reviving the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO) awarded Kalka-Shimla Railway, which had been running in losses. The locomotives were refurbished and tracks and signalling units were improved. Dhumal is also a teacher and an agriculturist. He has been associated with various social organisations such as Bharat Vikas Parishad, Vivekanand Memorial Society and Himachal Hitkarini Sabha. However, Dhumal has faced few controversies in his political career. He has often been at loggerheads with his Congress counterpart and current Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, over his governance style. In 2007, Suresh Chandel, a BJP MP and a close aide of Dhumal, and six other party leaders were in the headlines for allegedly taking money to ask questions in Parliament. This controversy, also called 'cash-for-questions' scandal, probably led to Dhumal's downfall in the 2008 state elections. In 2010, some controversial CDs purportedly containing the voice of Dhumal, ordering the tapping of union minister Virbhadra Singh's telephone surfaced. Dhumal himself had rubbished those claims and ordered a probe. At an election rally this year, Dhumal lashed out at the Virbhadra-led Congress government for not doing enough in the healthcare sector and said, "the government was creating many scandals everyday". Raising the issue of poor health infrastructure and shortage of doctors, especially in the remote and tribal areas of the state, he said if the BJP comes to power, then an ambulance, along with a doctor, would be stationed at every village of the state. Dhumal's son Anurag Thakur had said that it was time that the BJP would storm back to powe as the Congress had 'looted the hill state'. He was referring to the Virbhadra's disproportionate assets case, in which his family is also allgedly involved. On November 1, just before the polls, Dhumal was unexpectedly announced as the chief ministerial candidate. The health minister, J.P Nadda, emerged as a strong contender, initially, but it was Dhumal at the end, possibly due to his experience as chief minister earlier and caste politics. The socially-dominant Brahmins make up about 30 percent in Himachal Pradesh. With the results coming out today, can Dhumal spring a surprise by dethroning Virbhadra once in for all?
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