Who is Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's heir apparent? If party sources are to be believed, it is none other than its low profile vice president Rajaram.
An intense debate about Mayawati's successor has been raging in political circles since she told a public rally August 9 that there was a conspiracy to assassinate her.
But she told her supporters not to worry, saying her successor had been chosen and that the party would run as usual.
BSP sources say that the only likely person to take over the leadership of the party is the 35-year-old Rajaram.
Rajaram, presently the party's Madhya Pradesh affairs in-charge, is the only one in the party to don the post of vice president. It is a post Mayawati held when her mentor and BSP founder leader Kanshi Ram was president.
Five feet, eight inches tall, the fair and handsome Rajaram was once the BSP's Delhi unit secretary. He is presently a member of the Uttar Pradesh legislative council. His term expires next year.
Rajaram is arguably the only person in the party who is part of the legacy of the late Kanshi Ram. "He is one of very few people of the Kanshi Ram era who is with Mayawati today. Others joined BSP later," a party source told IANS.
Mayawati had also told the Lucknow rally that she had handed over a sealed envelope, containing the name of her successor, to two of her confidants.
She said: "He is 18 to 20 years younger to me, is not from my family and he is from my chamar community. What is he and where he stays, I have given everything in the letter in the sealed envelope."
Mayawati was born in 1956, and Rajaram is younger by as many years as she said. He does belong to her community, and he is not from her family.
"Add all this to the fact that he is the vice president of the BSP, a post held by Mayawati once," said a party leader on condition of anonymity.
Rajaram belongs to Azamgarh in eastern Uttar Pradesh and graduated in law from Varanasi. His father was murdered when he was a child and he came in contact with Bali Ram, who became a MP from Azamgarh district.
"Through Bali Ram, he came in contact with Kanshi Ram," said a BSP source. "Rajaram wanted to pursue further studies but joined the BSP full time on the advice of Kanshi Ram."