The BJP’s emphatic victory in the 2017 assembly polls in Uttarakhand on Saturday could trigger a problem of plenty. Whom to choose as chief minister from a surfeit of stalwarts in its kitty?
The party didn’t announce any name for the post before the February 15 elections, while BJP chief Amit Shah had said the legislators will elect the chief minister.
The names doing the rounds now are spiritual guru Satpal Maharaj, who a Congress turncoat, Trivendra Singh Rawat, an RSS ideologue, state BJP president Ajay Bhatt and former assembly speaker Prakash Pant.
The 66-year-old Satpal Maharaj is the senior-most among the contenders for the job. A former Congress heavyweight, he joined the BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections because of differences with chief minister Harish Rawat.
He has a clean image and a “spiritual guru” tag, which apparently suits the BJP and its ideological fountainhead, the RSS. Maharaj is known to have close ties with the RSS leaders as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But Maharaj, who is a new entrant in the party, might be considered an “outsider”.
BJP state president Ajay Bhatt began his political career as an RSS worker before he joined the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the BJP’s youth wing.
The 58-year-old leader long association with the Sangh is considered a plus point in his bid to become chief minister. His experience as a former minister is also an advantage. But his reclusive nature could tick off legislators.
Trivendra Singh Rawat’s RSS background and his closeness to BJP chief Shah may help him land the top post. But the 56-year-old’s habit of calling a spade a spade may come in the way. Besides, he doesn’t mingle much with party workers, which is his weak point, party insiders said.
The 57-year-old Prakash Pant, the first speaker of the Uttarakhand assembly, is a former minister for parliamentary affairs. He could be the dark horse if equations don’t favour the other three contenders.
He is known to be a good strategist and has administrative experience as a former minister. But his limited interactions with party workers may stymie his chances, sources said.