A red flag from RSS, BJP’s ideological mentor, spoiled telecom minister Manoj Sinha’s chances at becoming the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
BJP’s 312 MLAs elected Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath as their leader on Saturday, paving the way for his elevation as the chief minister.
As a tug of war played out between the contenders—in Lucknow and Delhi—BJP sources claimed that Sinha was edged out of the race much before it was claimed. Deliberations between the top BJP and RSS leaders after Holi saw him being dropped.
Sinha, also an ABVP activist during his BHU days, was not seen as suitable to take forward the ideological battle that the RSS was interested in.
RSS joint general secretary Krishna Gopal, who coordinates between the RSS and the BJP, was against the idea of Sinha becoming the chief minister. As RSS pracharak in Poorvanchal, when Sinha was an MP in the 90s, Gopal had a turf war with the Bhumihar leader.
Sinha’s detractors in the RSS also claim that the perception about him having a soft corner for a particular caste worked against his favour. “The RSS wanted a caste neutral leader,” a source said.
Adityanath too flexed his muscles to lock down Sinha’s chance. State BJP chief Maurya also joined the ranks.
Those who opposed Sinha also propped up the name of state BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, an OBC leader from Allahabad.
He had been in the race from the beginning of polls, but when it came to the selection, Maurya was seen as relatively light-weight leader to manage a big state like UP.
Some in the RSS felt that a heavyweight, like Rajnath Singh, should be in the hot seat. But, the idea did not cut much ice with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, who also wanted a young leader to become CM.
Lady luck smiled on the 44-year-old head priest of Goraknath mutt when RSS and VHP opined that he had all the qualities that they and BJP were looking for.
As chief minister, Adityanath is caste neutral. A Thakur leader from Pauri in Uttarakhand, Ajay Singh Bisht, Yogi’s original name, has a following across castes.
He is seen as a Hindu figure who can help the BJP consolidate its support base in 2019.
If Yogi’s caste identity plays out, it will also challenge Rajnath who has been the undisputed leader of Thakurs in UP.