Wary of infighting, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is unlikely to name chief ministerial candidates in three states heading for assembly elections and will instead seek votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The party fears that naming just one leader for the top political job in the states —Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand — may create divisions and jeopardise its chances of forming a government. “There is a consensus at the top that we will not project CM candidates in these states. We will seek votes in Modi’s name,” a senior BJP leader told HT.
The BJP did well in these three states in the Lok Sabha polls and party leaders are confident succeeding in the assembly elections likely around September-October.
A party source said the newly-appointed BJP chief, Amit Shah, has asked leaders from these states to put up a united front and keep the leadership issue on the backburner for a while. Party insiders say Shah is worried that factionalism in these state units may damage their chances in the assembly polls, his first electoral challenge as head of the ruling party.
The Haryana assembly’s term expires on October 27, Mahasrhatra on December 7 and Jharkhand January 3.
“The focus is on consolidating out Lok Sabha performance in these states,” said another BJP leader who was part of a series of recent meetings Shah had with leaders of the states headed for polls. The BJP won 23 of 25 contested seats in Maharashtra, 7 of 8 contested seats in Haryana and 12 out of a total 14 seats in Jharkhand.
In Maharashtra, transport minister Nitin Gadkari was an obvious choice for the chief minister’s post after Gopinath Munde died in an accident last month.
But Gadkari seems averse to returning to state politics.
State president Devendra Fadnavis, opposition leaders Vinod Tawde and Eknath Khadese are the other contenders but are not considered strong enough to take on an assertive ally, Shiv Sena.
In Jharkhand, the party is dealing with a demand from within to have a non-tribal chief minister.
Arjun Munda, a three-time chief minister, is the BJP’s lone Adivasi face but party leaders consider his past record unimpressive. Former deputy chief minister Raghubar Das and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha were probable candidates among non-tribal leaders from the state.
Union ministers Rao Indrajeet Singh and Krishna Pal Gujjar, party spokesman Captain Abhimanyu, Kisan Morcha Chief OP Dhankar and state BJP chief Ram Vilas Sharma are possible candidates in Haryana but the party feels none can ensure victory on their own.