LUCKNOW: With no clarity on who will become the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the newly elected BJP MLAs, party leaders and the bureaucracy have adopted a wait-andwatch attitude even as the name of probables is being floated and debated with abandon since the results were announced on March 11.
There is a lull in the Lucknow BJP office after the Holi festivities got over. While most of the MLAs celebrated the festival in their respective constituencies, senior party leaders are away in Delhi. Most party leaders are candid enough to admit that only PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah have the keys that would unlock the secret of who will be chief minister.
Shah himself is busy with the developments in Goa and Manipur. BJP leaders here are waiting for party central observers M Venkaiah Naidu and Bhupendra Yadav to arrive here. Some action is expected by Thursday. But the leaders are in no doubt that Naidu and Yadav will only carry the name of the next CM and the legislator party meeting will be a mere formality.
While the old frontrunners like BJP UP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, Union ministers Manoj Sinha and Santosh Gangwar as well as state unit general secretary Swatantra Dev are still doing the rounds, a few more have been added to the list.
Party insiders say Maharajpur MLA 56-year-old Satish Mahana, a veteran party leader from the Khatri caste who has won seven times, is one of the frontrunners for the post of CM. He was called to Delhi on March 11 and has met central leaders after the poll results, sources said. Shahjahanpur MLA Suresh Khanna, 63, who won his eighth vidhan sabha polls, is also in the race.
Other than being old party hands who won polls even when the BJP was going through a weak phase, the two belong to castes that are numerically non-dominant
Under Modi and BJP Chief Amit Shah, the party has chosen to appoint those leaders as chief minister who do not belong to a caste that is present in a sizable number. In Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, a Brahmin; in Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, a Khatri; and in Jharkhand, Raghubar Das, were made chief minister.
The two may be in the reckoning for Vidhan Sabha Speaker post as well due to their experience. Manoj Sinha- a Bhumihar- is also a strong contender for CM post.
Bhumihars constitute only 2.5 per cent of the electorate. A B.Tech from ITBHU, Sinha is a second time MP who enjoys the confidence of the Prime Minister and is one of the senior leaders looking after Varanasi on behalf of Modi.
The local buzz is that BJP will have to keep caste equations, ability to impress the people of the state with his work in the two years before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, clean image in mind while choosing the chief minister.
“No leader who belongs to a caste having sizable numbers is likely to be CM. A OBC leader may not make it as the state unit chief is also from the backward caste, unless Maurya himself is made CM or minister and replaced by an upper caste leader as state unit chief,” a BJP leader said.
Kalyan Singh, who represents the Lodh community that is a dominant backward caste, emerged as a strong mass leader who could challenge Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in later years. The party is not likely to repeat the mistake, party insiders say. Appoint ment of a deputy CM to maintain the caste balance is also being speculated.