The BJP’s legislators in Uttar Pradesh will decide on Saturday evening who will become the chief minister of India’s largest state, exactly a week after the saffron party crushed its opponents en-route a landslide victory.
Unless there is a last-minute change in script, the top contenders for the position appear to be Union telecom minister Manoj Sinha, , RSS general secretary (organisation) in Bihar Nagendra Nath Tripathi, BJP legislature party leader Suresh Khanna, a Khatri.
A source said a lobby was also busy pitching for party vice-president and Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma who too enjoys the confidence of PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. UP party chief Keshav Prasad Maurya who along with party general secretary (organization) Sunil Bansal would also be present at the legislature party meeting is likely to propose the name of the new CM. The new CM would take oath along with his ministers at a lavish function at Lucknow’s Smriti Upvan grounds on Sunday.
BJP lawmakers would lock their choice in the presence of Union minister Venkaiah Naidu and BJP national general secretary Bhupendra Yadav. The meeting would take place at Lok Kalyan Bhawan, the new chief minister’s secretariat building that came up during the tenure of outgoing UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. The Lok Kalyan Bhawan shares its boundary with BJP office in Lucknow and hence celebrations are likely to be spread right from CM’s secretariat till the party office.
All arrangements have been made for grand swearing-in ceremony on Sunday at a sprawling complex on the outskirts of Lucknow. The event is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shah and a clutch of senior ministers.
Sinha – a two-time parliamentarian who represents the Ghazipur Lok Sabha seat from eastern Uttar Pradesh – offered prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath temple and Sankatmochan Temple in Varanasi on Saturday morning before leaving for his home district. An upper-caste Bhumihar leader, Sinha is considered close to Modi and manages the PM’s Varanasi parliamentary constituency.
Other contenders for the position include Union home minister Rajnath Singh – who has been CM of the state before – and tourism minister Mahesh Sharma – who is a former MLA from the state and considered close to the RSS.
The BJP won 312 of the state’s 403 seats in the recently concluded assembly election, winning support from communities such as Dalits and OBCs who have traditionally stayed away from the party, on the back of Modi’s popularity. The party’s victory – the biggest in almost four decades – is is seen as a ringing endorsement of Modi’s governance and will boost the BJP in the run-up to the general elections.