The message streaming out of Hotel Peterhoff screamed one name and settled for the time being who will lead the ruling BJP into next year’s assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh. The BJP’s three-day Chintan Baithak or brainstorming at the iconic, British-built Shimla hotel concluded that chief minister Jai Ram Thakur will be the centrepiece of its 2022 election campaign—which is a reassuring certificate for the 56-year-old man amidst speculation of a leadership change like what the party did in Uttarakhand. What weighs in favour of Thakur is the backing of the RSS-BJP, no visible or simmering dissidence within the party, and a weakened Opposition. “I will be in the same position in 2022,” he asserted after meeting Union home minister Amit Shah and BJP national president J.P. Nadda in Delhi a week prior to the Chintan Baithak.
Still, it cannot be assumed that no questions were asked at Peterhoff. Sources say his term was assessed in reference to the Covid pandemic, which has killed more than 3,400 people in the hill state and squeezed the economy. The government’s development schemes suffered too, and some were grounded for months. This led to accusations that the chief minister has lost control.