The BJP leadership continued to remain tight-lipped over its chief ministerial pick in Uttar Pradesh, where preparations were on in full swing for the new government’s inauguration in Lucknow on Sunday. Sources indicated that Union Minister Manoj Sinha is the frontrunner. Sinha, however, told reporters outside Parliament: “Neither do I know about any race, nor am I in any race.” He left for Lucknow on Friday.
Sources said several factors favour Sinha. They said he is in Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as BJP chief Amit Shah’s good books.
A party leader said Sinha, an MTech in civil engineering, could be as an able administrator who can fulfill Modi’s plans for UP. Sinha’s Bhumihar caste is not very strong in terms of numbers and is concentrated in the Poorvanchal region. This could make him a caste-neutral leader. “As his caste is not so strong, objections from other castes could be less. And he can take everyone along,” said a Union Minister. Party leaders added that a dark horse cannot be ruled out. Modi and Shah had surprised everyone by making Manohar Lal Khattar the Chief Minister of Haryana and Raghubar Das of Jharkhand.
Union Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP Uttar Pradesh Chief Keshav Prasad Maurya are seen as contenders too. But many party leaders said the focus appeared to have shifted to Sinha. Shah’s statement on Thursday that he had authorised Maurya to name the chief minister has led to speculation that he was out of the race. Sources said Modi and Shah were holding their cards close to their chests.
BJP lawmakers would meet in Lucknow on Saturday to elect their legislative party leader. “If the name of the new CM is revealed before the meeting of the newly-elected MLAs, then the relevance and sanctity of the meeting would be lost,’’ said Maurya. Sources said the central leadership would convey its choice for the post to the lawmakers, who would to endorse it at the meeting. In Lucknow, Governor Ram Naik cleared the date, place and timing for the inauguration at Smriti Upvan built in the memory of Kargil martyrs. Prime Minister Modi is expected to attend the ceremony.