Would Prime Minister Narendra Modi risk installing an upper caste chief minister in Uttar Pradesh?
Four out of five contenders for the top post in country’s most populous state are from upper castes—two of them Brahmin.
“We will choose the next chief minister on the basis of merit. The best man will be picked up,” BJP president Amit Shah said last evening, dismissing the notion that caste will be a consideration. That is easier said than done.
Given the BJP’s effort for consolidation of OBC communities in its favour, picking an upper caste leader in a state where backwards are in majority has its own risk.
Other Backward Classes (OBCs) account for more than 40% of UP’s population and Rajnath Singh was the last upper caste chief minister that UP had for a brief time between 2000 and 2002.
While BJP’s parliamentary board is meeting later today to review the results and discuss who could be the next chief minister, here is a list of the top contenders.
57-year-old Sinha is the telecom minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. A two-time parliamentarian, he represents Ghazipur Lok Sabha seat from eastern Uttar Pradesh. An upper caste Bhumihar leader, Sinha is considered close to Modi and manages Varanasi, the PM’s parliamentary constituency.
Keshav Prasad Maurya
The 47-year-old MP from Phulpur comes from a backward community. He currently heads Uttar Pradesh BJP and was closely associated with the VHP during the 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.
India’s home minister, the 65-year-old Thakur leader was the last BJP chief minister in Uttar Pradesh. The senior-most BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh, he is considered close to the RSS. He has the experience of running a state government.
Sharma is a first-time Lok Sabha MP from Gautam Buddha Nagar and 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.
The 53-year-old leader was first elected the mayor of Lucknow in 2008. He teaches at the Lucknow University and is currently the national vice president of the BJP. He is considered close to BJP president Amit Shah.
That said, Modi is known to spring surprises. It is possible he might pick a candidate few would have considered a frontrunner.