Shimla, Dec 28: Former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister and BJP chief ministerial candidate, Prem Kumar Dhumal, has the rare distinction of being the only BJP leader to complete a full term as Chief Minister of the state (1998 to 2003).
Born on April 10, 1944 in Samirpur village of Hamirpur district, Dhumal is a qualified teacher. A postgraduate in English from Punjab University, Chandigarh and Law from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, he was a lecturer at a private college in Punjab before joining Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and becoming its vice president in 1982. His entry into the electoral politics was also a rare coincidence. He was chosen to contest from Hamirpur parlimanety constituency after BJP stalwart Jagdev Chand refused to contest in 1984.
Dhumal lost the election to Congress leader Narain Chand Prasar. He avenged his defeat in 1989 and retained the seat in 1991. However, he was humbled by a lesser-known opponent Vikram Singh Katoch in 1996. He became the state BJP president in 1993 and became the Chief Minister of the state in March 1998.
He successfully ran the coalition government with HVC and completed the full five year term (1998-2003) Dhumal became the leader of the Opposition after the party lost the 2003 election, but resigned his assembly seat after being elected to the Lok Sabha in June.
He was elected to the Lok Sabha twice earlier from the Hamirpur constituency in 1989 and 1991.
A front runner for Chief Ministership, Dhumal has already been declared party candidate for the coveted post by the party High-Command.
He contested the state assembly election for the third time from Bamsan assembly constituency after winning his first election in 1998 with a huge margin of 18,000 votes. Then Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh wrongly assessed the mood of the people and went in for simultaneous Assembly polls, ten months ahead of schedule, along with Lok Sabha polls. The gamble boomeranged and the Congress won 31 seats. It was ousted from power, while the BJP, which also captured 31 seats, managed to form a coalition government with the support of five MLAs of the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC).
However, his five year tenure from 1998 to 2003 was full of controversies with seven of his party leaders, including four ministers and three legislators, revolting against him, alleging widespread corruption. The seven leaders were expelled by the state party and the imbroglio was only resolved on the intervention of the central leadership, which ensured that they were retained as Ministers in the Dhumal Government.
The BJP leader is credited with the widespread networking of roads during his Chief Ministership and is often referred to as the ''Sadak walla Chief Minister'' for his developmental works.
However, the Congress returned to power in the last Assembly elections in 2003, winning 43 seats and polling 41 per cent votes, as against 35.38 per cent votes polled by the BJP, which won only 16 seats. Dhumal defeated Col Bidhi Chand of Congress in four cornered contest. Dhumal is considered more as a grassroots leader and a hard worker.