Who will assume the mantle of Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh, following the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory run across the state, winning over 300 seats?
After the stupendous electoral victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has now turned to addressing the most crucial question on everyone’s mind. Who will be the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh?
While the BJP lost no time in cobbling the support of allies and independents in Goa and Manipur to form the government, it is taking its own sweet time in doing so in Uttar Pradesh. The reasons are many.
The holder of the post will play a key role in the BJP’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls just two and half years away.
The political significance of Uttar Pradesh has remained high on account of its numerical strength in the Lok Sabha, to which it sends 80 representatives. Also, the intense politics in this heartland of India defines the dominant narratives of Indian politics: the decline of national parties, caste or identity politics, religious mobilisations and the criminalisation of politics.
Let us also remember, it is Uttar Pradesh that has given 15 prime ministers to India.
Therefore, the Uttar Pradesh BJP Legislative Party is all set to be convened on March 16, where the leader of the majority party will be elected. To make the selection process smooth, the BJP leadership has nominated senior BJP leader and Union Cabinet Minister, M Venkaiah Naidu and Rajya Sabha MP and BJP National General Secretary, Bhupendra Yadav to visit Lucknow to attend the BJP legislative party meeting. They will report back on the proceedings to Amit Shah, the BJP president.
Whatever the proceedings, it has the blessings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So, the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh too will have his blessings.
As of now, the names of more than half-a-dozen probable chief ministerial candidates are doing the rounds.
Whoever becomes the ‘CEO’ of Uttar Pradesh, he or she will be ending the drought for the party after 14 long years. The last time the BJP had a chief minister was back in 2002, when Rajnath Singh headed the BJP government till March that year.
He is currently the Union Home Minister and the BJP’s brightest face in the state. He is the hot favourite in the party headquarter. Also known for his clean image, Rajnath Singh has been the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in the year 2000. However, he does not enjoy the confidence of either PM Modi or Shah.
Later, he shifted to the national political scene and became a union minister and the national president of the BJP for two terms. As a star campaigner for the BJP, he camped in the state for 26 days and addressed 120 public rallies, covering 20,000 kilometres. Singh is a highly-disciplined organisational man and has been known to follow party decisions. He has been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological parent, since 1964, which makes him a politician with a strong grassroots connection.
But, the question is whether he is ready to swipe the post of Union Home Minister to return to his political roots? Since Uttar Pradesh plays a key role in Indian politics in 80 parliamentary seats, will the BJP leadership gamble on someone like Singh who is a tall leader, capable of posing a challenge to Modi or Shah?
Keshav Prasad Maurya
Currently the president of Uttar Pradesh’s BJP unit, Maurya is another popular candidate. Many saw Maurya in the race for the hot seat when the national executive meeting was held earlier this year.
He was closely associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (a tributary body of RSS) during the Ayodhya Ram Temple movement in the 1990s. His appointment as the president of BJP’s state unit was aimed to garner support among the non-Yadav OBCs. Given his organisational skills, his name definitely would be on the list for discussion.
A professor at the Lucknow University, Dinesh Sharma is currently the mayor of the city. National vice-president of the BJP since 2014, Sharma is considered close to BJP President Amit Shah.
A rabblerousing BJP leader, Yogi Adityanath has been representing the Lok Sabha constituency of Gorakhpur since 1998.
Minister of State for Telecom and Railways, Manoj Sinha is also one of the probable chief ministerial candidates. Sinha is a confidante for Modi and Shah, owing to his work and organisational strategies. He has all the details of every seat in Uttar Pradesh on his fingertips. Sinha is considered close to Modi and manages the prime minister’s Varanasi parliamentary constituency.
Water Resources Minister, Uma Bharti tried to project herself as one of the candidates for the top job in the state. Her experience in the union government and as Madhya Pradesh chief minister could be an advantage as well as a disadvantage. But, light political weights can also spring surprises.
A first-time member of the Lok Sabha from Gautam Buddha Nagar, he is currently the tourism minister in Modi’s cabinet. A practising doctor who owns the Kailash Hospital in Noida, Sharma has been a member of the UP Legislative Assembly. He is considered close to the RSS. His shortcoming is that his influence is restricted to Noida alone.
The Minister of State for Finance could be another dark horse for the post of chief minister. Though less talked about, he was elected as MP in the 16th Lok Sabha by registering victory by a margin of over 240,000 votes over his rival candidate in the 2014 General Election.
Will BJP national secretary, Shrikant Sharma, make it to the post of chief minister? His lack of political experience may hamper his prospects, but one will not be surprised if he emerges as an unexpected choice.
This six-time MLA from Kanpur keeps a low profile and is not known in the national circles. An organisational man for last several decades, Mahana is also a close friend of Modi.
Santosh Dev Singh
Lady luck may also smile on the secretary in state unit of BJP. A low-profile politician, Santosh Dev Singh gave direction and managed the Modi wave in the state.
However, it is to be seen whom Prime Minister Modi will crown as the next chief minister – someone popular, powerful or a dark horse? The whole nation waits with bated breath.