Five Bharatiya Janata Party leaders are said to be in the race for the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the 2017 assembly elections.
The five names doing the rounds include state BJP president Ajay Bhatt, its former chief and currently an MP from Nainital, B S Koshiyari and the party’s in-charge for Jharkhand Trivendra Singh Rawat. The party’s national executive member Satpal Maharaj is also said to be in the race apart from the party’s Member of Parliament (MP) from Haridwar Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank.
Rumours about five top state BJP leaders in the race to be its CM candidate began doing the rounds after the party elected its new president Bhatt on December 31. Party insiders said an early decision on a CM candidate should be taken as just one year is left for the assembly elections.
“Our leadership should decide on its (chief ministerial) candidate early for two reasons,” said state BJP’s former president Manohar Kant Dhyani. For one, such a move would give people time to make up their mind about the BJP as they would be clear about the kind of leadership they would get if they chose to vote for it (BJP) in the assembly elections.
Besides, that would give the CM candidate enough time to settle, which would be needed to take on an astute leader like chief minister Harish Rawat who is likely to lead the ruling Congress in the elections.
“Rawat will pose a tough challenge for us as he is a veteran politician and his party’s popularity is on the rise under him,” Dhyani said. He said Nishank is the only state BJP leader who could take on Rawat. “Besides being relatively young, he is as astute, has not lost even a single election so far and had also been the chief minister,” Dhyani said.
Giving Nishank tough competition for the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the next assembly elections are his three nearest rivals: Koshiyari, Bhatt and Trivendra Singh, according to party insiders.
Out of these, Koshiyari is ahead of them all owing to a host of factors, a party insider said. Among these factors, his experience as an organisational leader and his closeness to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor, are said to be his strong points.
“Besides, the BJP leadership feels he deserves to be given another chance as he got just two months’ tenure as chief minister in the interim government the party formed after the state’s formation in 2000,” the source said.
Bhatt could also be the CM candidate as he had proved his mettle as the Leader of the Opposition, according to another source. “He (Bhatt) also fits the bill as he had been a member of the RSS, a cabinet minister and had also been the party’s state general secretary twice,” the source said. Trivendra Singh also stood a chance as he had been a minister and the party’s national secretary besides being close to the RSS.
Satpal Maharaj is said to be the strongest among the contenders owing to three factors--his closeness to the RSS and the top BJP brass besides his nationwide following as a spiritual guru. “But the former Congress leader is not acceptable to the majority of our cadres as he is a recent entrant to our party,” a BJP insider said.