The BJP top brass has started the process to pick its chief minister for Uttarakhand with poll surveys pointing to the party’s win in the assembly election, the results of which will be out on Saturday, insiders said.
BJP chief Amit Shah is keeping a watch over the process that is being kept under wraps, they said. “He (Shah) recently sought complete information on its four second-rung leaders being considered for the top job from his sources in the party’s state unit,” a BJP senior leader told HT on Friday.
He was referring to the party’s state chief Ajay Bhatt, its national executive member Satpal Maharaj and two other leaders— Prakash Pant and Trivendra Singh Rawat.
Maharaj, 66, a relatively new entrant to the BJP, happens to be the most senior leader among them. A former Congress strongman, the spiritual guru joined the BJP after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections following his differences with chief minister Harish Rawat.
Maharaj had been a Union minister of state in the HD Deve Gowda government in the late 1990s. Three other BJP veterans competing for the post of chief minister also have administrative experience. Pant had been the parliamentary affairs minister besides being the first Speaker of the Uttarakhand assembly. Singh and Bhatt had also been ministers. Singh had worked for the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and Bhatt had been associated with it since his childhood days. Both rose through the ranks like Pant, a BJP strategist.
All of them have a “long political innings to play” as they are below 60. “All these four second-rung leaders of our party fulfil all its administrative and organisational criteria required for the post of chief minister,” a senior state BJP office-bearer said. The high command is taking no chance and started the selection process “long before the counting day” to ensure the best pick for the top job, he said.
“No wonder, the party’s top brass is appraising all the four candidates’ administrative and organisational capabilities,” a highly placed source in the BJP said. According to him, it is being closely assessed who among the four has the capability to deliver the best in terms of governance.
“It is also being assessed who among them would be the most acceptable to party workers and the elected legislators,” a party leader said, adding that the best among the four would be picked by the central parliamentary board. “His name would be announced among the members of the party’s legislature wing and they will accept him as their leader before he would be declared as the chief minister,” the party leader clarified.
Sources said Shah and other central leaders have had separate meetings with the four prospective CMs in Delhi.
Maharaj, when contacted, refused to comment on the selection process, nor on reports about the high command having separate meetings with the prospective chief ministers.
“Such interactions are common in a party and also a part of the political process,” said Maharaj.