The biggest asset of the 52-year-old Jai Ram Thakur, set to be Himachal Pradesh’s next chief minister, is that he has climbed every step required to reach the top.Born on January 6, 1965, to a poor family in Tandi village of Mandi’s Thunag area, Thakur was fourth among five siblings and his father Jhethu Ram worked as a mason. He lost his father exactly a year ago on December 25.After passing out from a local government school, he completed his Bachelor of Arts (BA) from a govt college in Mandi.It was during his stay there that he first got attracted to student politics in 1983, and joined BJP’s student wing Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). By 1986, he earned a name in the field and soon became ABVP’s state secretary.After completing his college education, Thakur was elevated to BJP’s youth wing — Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) — in the 90s. He spent the following years in Jammu & Kashmir as the organisational secretary from 1989 to 1992, honing his skills as a student leader.He fought his first state legislative assembly elections in 1993, from Chachiot (now Seraj), at the young age of 28, but lost by a slender margin of 800 votes. He, however, succeeded in catching the attention of BJP’s top brass, because Mandi had always been considered a bastion of the Congress party.He contested the assembly election again in 1998 from Seraj and since then has won all five assembly elections back-to-back, that too with huge margins. Known to be a low-profile party loyalist, Thakur was re-elected in 2003 and given charge of the party in 2006. Within seven months of his leadership, BJP came back to power with an emphatic win in the 2007 assembly polls.Despite being a three-time MLA, Thakur remained state chief till 2009, before being inducted into cabinet ranks as rural development and panchayati raj minister. He had always been touted as the CM-in-waiting during his time in the cabinet till 2012.Known for his proximity with the RSS, Thakur belongs to the dominant Rajput community that has a significant presence in the state. He will be the sixth leader of the state to occupy the chief ministers office, but the first one from Mandi region.

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No looking back for Jai Ram Thakur after joining BJP in ’83