DEHRADUN: The lobbying in Uttarakhand BJP for the chief minister’s post has intensified with former ministers Prakash Pant and Trivendra Singh Rawat being said to be the frontrunners.
“Of the two, Pant is the high command’s favourite for the post owing to his clean image,” a senior state BJP office bearer said.
Former agriculture minister Trivendra Singh Rawat’s name had figured in a ‘seed scam’ although he claims that an inquiry ordered by the Congress government failed to indict him.
Other hopefuls include BJP national executive member Satpal Mahraraj, state party chief Ajay Bhatt and former chief ministers and parliamentarians B S Koshiyari and Ramesh Pokhariyal. They have either been lobbying with the BJP top brass or with the leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the party’s ideological fount ever since the saffron party swept the assembly election winning 56 of the total 70 seats.
Incidentally, most contenders for the top job form a part of the state BJP’s second rung of leadership. Barring Maharaj and Koshiyari, others are below 60.
Pant, meanwhile, emerges as the favourite as he fulfils Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s norms for the top job, say party insiders. “As a former minister he (Pant) has the administrative experience required to run the state. But his strongest point is that there has been no allegation of corruption against him”, a senior BJP leader said, referring to Uttarakhand’s first assembly Speaker.
Rumours about his being a frontrunner for the CM’s post got credence owing to his recent visit to Delhi where he reportedly met key central BJP leaders.
Rawat, on the other hand, too has an impressive resume. He began his political career as a RSS pracharak and held key positions in the BJP including as its national secretary. Besides, he is said to be close to BJP president Amit Shah whom he assisted during the party’s campaign for last parliamentary elections. Currently, he is the BJP’s state in-charge for Jharkhand.
BJP insiders, meanwhile, say that the development in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh would also determine who would be nominated as the CM here. “If our party nominates a Brahmin leader as the UP chief minister then Rawat would get the top post in Uttarakhand”, said a BJP insider. “However, Pant, our party’s Brahmin face, would get that post, if a Thakur takes over as the chief minister in UP.”
The BJP has already set the ball rolling for selection of CM by appointing its two central observers--- party national general secretary Saroj Pandey and Union minister Ratan Singh Tomar. “They will visit the state on Friday and meet our legislature party members separately to assess their choice for chief minister”, state BJP vice president J P Gairola said. “Our central leadership will select the best person for the job”, he told Hindustan Times.