New Delhi, March 3: Union minister for rural development Shanta Kumar may be dropped from the Vajpayee Cabinet, following a rapidly-emerging view in the BJP that he was “single-handedly” responsible for the party’s debacle in the Himachal Assembly elections.
BJP sources said both Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani shared the view that had Kumar “co-operated” with former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal — “the way Keshubhai Patel did with Narendra Modi in Gujarat” — the party would not have suffered such a humiliating defeat.
Today, Vajpayee summoned Kumar and asked why he had publicly blamed Dhumal’s “poor performance” for the defeat when it was “widely known” that the Himachal BJP was a divided house and he himself led one faction. BJP sources said Kumar stuck to his earlier view.
The Union minister is likely to meet Advani and party president M. Venkaiah Naidu tomorrow, after which the leaders are expected to take a “collective” decision.
The impending punitive move against Kumar, according to sources, was intended as a “message” to other “recalcitrant” faction leaders in states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which are heading for polls by the end of the year.
The BJP expelled several district-level leaders in Himachal and dissolved various local units, to signal that it means business. Many of those expelled were Kumar’s nominees.
Earlier, Kumar fell foul of the leaders when he attacked Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad during the Gujarat carnage. There was an opinion that the minister had tried to “ingratiate” himself with Vajpayee by articulating a “moderate” line. However, the Prime Minister quickly distanced himself from Kumar when he saw which way the political wind was blowing in Gujarat.