With the BJP winning a historic mandate in Uttar Pradesh, attention immediately turns to the next big question: who will be the chief minister of India’s most populous state? Needless to say, it will be someone chosen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with party chief Amit Shah’s stamp of approval. The BJP parliamentary board will meet on Sunday and is expected to discuss the issue. Going by past experience, Modi could pick a rank outsider for the position.
Be that as it may, some likely contenders and aspirants include:
Keshav Prasad Maurya: As the state party chief, he was the man on the ground who implemented Amit Shah’s meticulous plan. He will definitely take credit for making the social engineering formula of retaining a large number of voters across caste lines behind the BJP – the non-Yadav OBCs — a success in the state. Maurya, 47, is an OBC leader from Phulpur in Allahabad.
Manoj Sinha: Union Minister of State for Telecom is considered to be a Modi favourite. The 57-year old represents Ghaazipur in the Lok Sabha and is an upper caste Bhumihar leader. Those who pitch him for the top post say his experience in the government and his image as one who works quietly behind the scenes could work to his advantage.
Rajnath Singh: Many in the party from different sections wanted the home minister as the chief ministerial candidate of the party. He has never shown any enthusiasm for the position. Some strategists of the party’s UP campaign would not like to see him now enjoying the fruits of their labour.
Dinesh Sharma: A college lecturer by profession, Sharma is the Mayor of Lucknow. Considered close to Amit Shah, the 53 year old leader is a religiouos man. He may have the advantage because of his closeness to Shah and the trust Modi has apparently reposed in him.
Mahesh Sharma: Although union minister Mahesh Sharma has few friends in the party, he enjoys the trust of Shah. The line of thought that says an upper caste face would be good for the party ahead of the 2019 general elections, works in his favour.
Shrikant Sharma: BJP’s young national secretary. A section of the party has been supporting him arguing that a Kaashhiwala in Delhi, and a Mathura wala (he is Mathura MLA) in Lucknow will give the BJP a winning combination. He is also close to Shah.
Sidharth Nath Singh: Another national secretary. Some in the party had read Shah’s overwhelming support of him and his comment that “he would be given serious responsibilities” in an election speech in Allahabad, as an indication of greater things ahead for him. He was seen as Prime Minister Modi’s experiment boy in Allahabad west.
Yogi Adityanath: Always wanted to be seen as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
Uma Bharti: Tried to sell herself as one of the candidates for the top job in the state. Her experience in the union government and as Madhya Pradesh CM could be an advantage as well as disadvantage.