The BJP’s landslide victory in Uttarakhand gave the saffron party the biggest mandate in the hill state’s history. Powered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP won more than 50 seats in a 70-member assembly, leaving behind the incumbent Congress in a distant second place with just 11.
But there are several contenders for the chief minister’s position, and BJP chief Amit Shah has said the newly elected legislators would elect their boss.
Among the probable are spiritual guru Satpal Maharaj, who joined the BJP from the Congress, Trivendra Singh Rawat, an RSS ideologue, state BJP president Ajay Bhatt and former assembly speaker Prakash Pant.
Here are factors that may go in favour or against the four leaders eying the top job:
Satpal Maharaj: At 66, BJP’s national executive member Satpal Maharaj is the senior-most among the competitors for the top job. A former Congress heavyweight, Maharaj joined the BJP in the wake of the 2014 Lok Sabha election, following his differences with chief minister Harish Rawat.
Strength: His clean image is said to be his strong point. The ‘spiritual guru’ tag also apparently suits the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), its ideological mentor. Maharaj is known to have close ties with top RSS leaders as well as Modi and Shah. His administrative experience as a former Union minister of state is also a strong point.
Weakness: With many BJP cadres and senior party leaders eyeing the top job, Maharaj might be considered an ‘outsider.’ His nomination for the top job may also trigger an open revolt by other party members, say insiders.
Ajay Bhatt: BJP state president Ajay Bhatt is the Leader of Opposition in the assembly. He began his political career as a RSS worker before he joined the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the BJP’s youth wing.
Strength: His long association with the Sangh Parivar that goes back to his childhood might work in his favour. Bhatt, 58, rose through the ranks over the years. His floor management during the political crisis last year brought him close to Shah, say some party insiders. His experience as a former minister is also seen as his plus point.
Weakness: Many in the BJP feel that if nominated to the top post Bhatt may face difficulty in getting the full support of legislature party owing to his reclusive nature.
Trivendra Singh Rawat: A former RSS pracharak, 56-year old Singh had also been the state BJP’s general secretary (organisation), later its national secretary. He is also the party’s Jharkhand in-charge.
Strength: Singh’s RSS background and his closeness to Shah may help him land the post of CM, according to insiders. Currently the party’s Jharkhand in-charge, Singh also assisted Shah in running the party’s campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. A former minister, he also has the administrative experience required to run the top job.
Weakness: His habit of calling a spade a spade may come in the way of being elected for the top post, say BJP insiders. Besides, he doesn’t mingle much with party workers, sources say, which is his yet another weak point.
Prakash Pant: The first Speaker of Uttarakhand assembly, Pant ( 57) has also served as a parliamentarian minister
Strength: Pant may emerge as a dark horse if political equations don’t favour his three competitors to the top job, say BJP insiders. According to them, he fits the bill as he is a good strategist besides having the administrative experience as a former cabinet minister.
Weakness: The BJP veteran’s habit of keeping a low profile and not interacting much with party workers may not work in his favour, say his detractors.