The BJP on Monday hinted that it might pick a relative greenhorn, rather than a party stalwart, for the chief minister’s post in Uttarakhand where it recorded a landslide victory winning 56 of the 70 assembly seats.
Battling the problem of plenty with as many as four former chief ministers in the party’s ranks besides a crop of young and promising leaders, making a choice for the top job in Uttarakhand is indeed a daunting task for the BJP.
BJP leaders here indicated that the choice will be made by the party’s Parliamentary Board absolutely on the basis of the person’s ability to deliver on the promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the people of the state in the run-up to assembly elections.
“As a strong Modi wave is believed to have swept the party to an absolute majority in the state, whoever is finally chosen as the chief minister will have to deliver on the promise of clean and efficient governance made by the Prime Minister to the people of the state,” a senior party leader said, requesting anonymity.
“The party cannot afford to take chances with a massive mandate like this. It has to meet the enormous expectations of people. And the sole parameter for choice of a chief minister will be his ability to deliver, tried or untried, old or new will not be much of a factor,” he said.
The inference gains credence primarily from Modi’s speech at the party headquarters in Delhi on Sunday where he said that even a lesser known elected representative who may not ever have made headlines could emerge as chief minister.
Modi had also promised to people at an election rally in Uttarakhand in the last phase of campaigning that he will give them a good team which will perform under his direct supervision.
However, while it is a million dollar question in Uttarakhand at the moment as to who would get the top job, names of quite a few probables are doing the rounds including those of former CMs Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Vijay Bahuguna, besides Chaubattakhand MLA Satpal Maharaj, Doiwala MLA Trivendra Singh Rawat and Pithoragarh MLA Prakash Pant.
Given Modi’s preference for relatively young faces, the contention of Khanduri, Koshiyari and Maharaj for the top office looks comparatively weak.
However, Khanduri’s clean image and Koshiyari’s deep RSS roots could work in their favour.
Another factor that weakens Maharaj’s contention is that though his stature is big as he has also been a spiritual leader with followers in all sections, he is a new entrant to the BJP. Maharaj quit the Congress in 2014 to join the BJP.
Though relatively younger, Nishank’s contention is Though relatively younger, Nishank’s contention is weakened by his not-so-uncontroversial image.
But the Haridwar MP cannot be ruled out of the race as he is being credited for playing a significant role in ensuring outgoing Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s defeat from Haridwar (rural) seat.
State BJP president Ajay Bhatt who piloted the party to a historic win in the state could have been a strong contender for the post being young too, but his defeat from Ranikhet appear to have dimmed his chances.
In the given scenario, Doiwala MLA Trivendra Singh Rawat and Pithoragarh MLA Prakash Pant emerge as the two most favourites.
Trivendra who was in-charge of the party’s affairs in Jharkhand and is believed to have guided it to an impressive victory there and is known for his unflinching loyalty to the party and proximity to the party top brass.
Prakash Pant, a former minister is also a relatively younger contender and considered a serious leader with a wealth of legislative experience.
Yashpal Arya and Harak Singh Rawat are also tall leaders but they are new entrants to the BJP.
Picking up from such a plethora of claimants for the top job may not be easy for the BJP, but one thing which is certain is that only someone who enjoys the confidence of Modi and BJP President Amit Shah will occupy the chief minister’s office in Uttarakhand