WITH THE BJP’s landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh shutting down any other debate for the time being, the focus has moved to the possible contenders for the chief minister’s post. The stunning victory has again confirmed that it will be a candidate handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with party president Amit Shah’s stamp of approval.
Going by their choices in the past — be it Jharkhand or Haryana — they could spring a surprise. On Saturday, Shah said the BJP parliamentary board, the party’s top decision-making body, will meet on Sunday to decide on a probable candidate. Several names, however, are doing the rounds. A look at some of the prominent ones:
Rajnath Singh, Union Home Minister: Having been the Uttar Pradesh CM from 2000 to 2002 — the last BJP CM in the state — Rajnath, a former party national president, is the CM choice for different sections of the party. The factor that could go in his favour could be his ability to project himself as a leader acceptable to different religious and caste groups. Some party leaders say making him CM could help the party push its slogan “sab ka saath, sab ka vikas” (taking all sections along), and help keep the rainbow social coalition intact for 2019 General Election. But he has not 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.
Best of Express Premium
Keshav Prasad Maurya: A first-time MP from Phulpur in Allahabad 2014, he came to limelight after Amit Shah appointed him the BJP state president in April last year. Maurya, 47, has overseen Shah’s meticulous plan at the ground level and could be credited for playing a crucial role in stitching the rainbow social coalition of non-Yadav OBCs behind the BJP. Those backing him say he can easily be the representatives of OBCs — the communities that rallied behind BJP in 2014 and 2017 victories in UP — and the Hindutva man due to his role in the Ram Janmabhumi movement. Modi and Shah may not like to upset the OBCs, which can be an ammunition for BSP and SP later. His caste, pro-Hindutva image and aggressive nature are being seen as positives for Maurya. His inexperience in government may not go against him but the number of cases, including criminal charges, could work against his prospects — because, BJP leaders say, Modi does not like his party entangled in legal hurdles.
Manoj Sinha: A three-term Lok Sabha MP from Ghazipur and Union MoS for Telecom and Railways, Sinha, 57, is an MTech in Civil Engineering from IIT-BHU, and is considered a favourite of Modi — the Prime Minister has often praised Sinha’s work in the Railways ministry. An upper caste Bhumihar leader, he has been overseeing the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi. Those who pitch him for the top post say his experience in the government and his clean image as a quiet and capable worker could work to his advantage.
Dinesh Sharma: A college lecturer by profession, the BJP national vice-president is a second-time mayor of Lucknow and is a popular leader due to his clean image. Considered close to Amit Shah, the 53-year-old is a religious man. He is also the party’s in-charge for Gujarat, the home state of Modi and Shah. Sharma was also in-charge of the party’s last membership drive in which the BJP emerged as the biggest political party. But he has not won any big election.
Mahesh Sharma: A medical practitioner by profession and chairman of Kailash Healthcare Limited in Noida, the Union minister may have few friends in the party but is said to enjoy Shah’s trust. 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. He is close to the RSS, too. He contested, and won, his first Assembly election from Noida as a BJP candidate in 2012, and got the party ticket from Gautam Budha Nagar for 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He won again. BJP leaders say Sharma’s good management skills could stand him in good stead as an administrator. Known as a prominent Brahmin face of the party in western UP, Sharma had visited Ayodhya last year to check two sites for a proposed Ramayan museum there.
Shrikant Sharma: BJP’s young national secretary, a section of the party is supporting him, arguing that a Kaashiwala in Delhi, and a Mathurawala — Sharma won the election from Mathura with a margin of more than 1 lakh votes, defeating Congress Legislature Party leader and sitting MLA Pradeep Mathur — in Lucknow will give the BJP a winning combination. He is also said to be close to Shah.
Among these candidates, only Shrikant Sharma has been elected in the current Assembly elections. Any one from among the others will have to be a UP Legislative Council member to become the chief minister.
🗞 Subscribe Now: Get Express Premium to access our in-depth reporting, explainers and opinions 🗞️
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.