DEHRADUN: The BJP is looking for a chief ministerial candidate in Uttarakhand who can implement Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda for development and is steeped in the saffron party’s ethos.
With as many as four former CMs in the party’s ranks apart from a crop of young leaders, picking a name for the top job in the state where it recorded a landslide victory winning 56 of the 70 assembly seats is a daunting task for the BJP.
“If none of the three names in the race for the top job meets its norms, our central leadership can bring in a chief minister of its choice,” a senior state BJP leader said.
The three names doing the rounds for the top job are BJP national executive member Satpal Maharaj and former ministers Trivendra Singh Rawat and Prakash Pant.
Incidentally, the trio forms a part of the state BJP’s second rung of leaders. Barring Maharaj, the others are below 60. Among the three, Trivendra Singh, who was till recently lagging behind, is now the frontrunner for the top job, sources in BJP said.
Earlier, Maharaj was said to be far ahead of his competitors owing to his “proximity” to Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. Besides, he was also said to be close to the leaders of the Rashrtiya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
BJP insiders say Maharaj fell behind after the “party cadre opposed his candidature as he is a new entrant in the party.”
Mahraj had switched his allegiance from Congress to BJP just before the 2014 Lok Sabha election. “Besides, he had never been a part of the RSS, which is essential for anybody in our party aspiring for the top job,” a BJP leader said.
Former assembly Speaker Pant is also being counted among the strong contenders for the post of chief minister. BJP insiders said most things go in his favour. For one, he is a party veteran who rose through the ranks. A former cabinet minister, he also has plenty of administrative experience.
“These aspects stand him in good stead but he doesn’t fit the bill in one respect. He had never been associated with RSS,” a BJP office bearer said.
Conversely, according to him, Trivendra Singh had left both his competitors far behind. “He had been a RSS pracharak and a former minister,” the party leader said, adding that he was close to Shah and also assisted him in Uttar Pradesh during last Lok Sabha polls.
A party insider said there was, however, no guarantee that any of the three claimants would get the top job. “It is possible that the BJP brass may also bring in an outsider for the top job if the claimants do not fulfil Modi’s norms for the CM’s post,” he said. “He (Modi) wants a person who can make the bureaucracy implement his vision of development for the state.”
Addressing party members in Delhi Sunday, Modi said that even a lesser known elected representative who may not ever have made headlines could emerge as CM. Earlier, campaigning in Uttarakhand, Modi had promised that he will give the state a good team, which will perform under his direct supervision.
State BJP vice president J P Gairola said the high command would get the best possible person for the top job as the party enjoys absolute majority in the House.