Even though there is little clarity over who will be the next UP chief minister, Governor Ram Naik on Friday announced that the new Cabinet will take oath on March 19 at 2.15 pm at Smriti Upvan in Lucknow’s Aashiana area.
BJP lawmakers are set to meet in Lucknow on Saturday to elect their legislative party leader. With the party leadership still tight-lipped over its chief ministerial pick, sources said Union Minister of communication (independent charge) Manoj Sinha is the frontrunner for the post, even as he denied it. “Neither do I know about any race, nor am I in any race,” said Sinha, who left for Lucknow on Friday, outside Parliament.
Sources said that many factors favour Sinha. They said that he is in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s as well as BJP chief Amit Shah’s good books. A party leader said that Sinha, who holds a post-graduate degree in civil engineering, could be an able administrator. His Bhumihar caste is not the strongest in terms of number and is concentrated in Poorvanchal belt. This could make show him as caste-neutral. “As his caste is not so strong, objections from the other caste could be less. And he can take everyone along,” said a Union Minister.
Party leaders added that the central leadership could spring a surprise even now. Modi and Shah had done so when Manohar Lal Khattar was named chief minister of Haryana and Raghubar Das of Jharkhand.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP’s Uttar Pradesh chief Keshav Prasad Maurya’s names had been doing the rounds along with Sinha as contenders for the post. But many party leaders said that the focus appeared to have shifted to Sinha.
Amit Shah’s statement on Thursday that he had authorised Maurya to name the chief minister had led to speculation that he was out of the race. It came on a day when Maurya was admitted to a hospital in New Delhi after he complained of uneasiness. He was discharged the same day.
Speaking to mediapersons outside the Parliament, Maurya on Friday said: “If the name of the new chief minister is revealed before the meeting of the newly-elected MLAs, then the relevance and sanctity of the meeting would be lost.’’
Sources said that the central leadership would convey its choice for the post post to the lawmakers, who would endorse the name at the meeting.
Officials, meanwhile, have started preparations for the swearing-in ceremony in Lucknow. Smriti Upvan — which was built in the memory of Kargil War martyrs — is being decked up for the event, which is likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and other top leaders.
While outgoing chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had chosen La Martinere College ground for the ceremony in 2012, Mayawati had taken oath with her ministers at Raj Bhavan in 2007.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s BJP legislature party meeting will be held at the auditorium of Lok Bhavan, the new secretariat.
While each party has been allotted offices in the Vidhan Bhavan building, sources said neither the BJP office nor Tilak Hall, which is usually used to hold meetings, has a capacity to accommodate over 300 people, Thus, BJP MLAs will choose their chief minister at the Lok Bhavan auditorium.
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