Powerful tribal leader Arjun Munda pulled out of the race for chief minister on Thursday, paving the way for the possible installation of his bete noir and five-time MLA Raghubar Das to head a BJP-led government in Jharkhand.
Sources said that barring last-minute change of plans, an official announcement naming Das as the state's first non-tribal chief minister could come as early as Friday, capping the saffron party's power-grabbing effort in the assembly elections.
True to post-poll predictions, the results on Tuesday gave the BJP and its ally AJSU Party 42 seats, an absolute majority in the House of 81 elected members.
However, a surprise loser in the polls was Munda, a former chief minister, from his stronghold Kharswan.
The sources added that the two central observers - JP Nadda and Vinay Sahashrabuddhe - are likely to complete their assessment by Friday morning ahead of naming Das for the chief minister's post.
Throughout the day, Das avoided a direct reply on his possible ascension.
"I am an ordinary karyakarta (worker). The party parliamentary board will decide on the next CM," said Das, the lawmaker from Jamshedpur East.
BJP insiders said that the party's parliamentary board has already decided on Das to head the new government and is likely to take oath by December 28, well ahead of the expiry of the outgoing government's term on January 3, 2015.
Hemant Soren, who led the 15-month-old UPA government, resigned as chief minister on Tuesday after his party - the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) - ended well short of the target with just 17 seats.
The only hurdle in Das' path was Munda himself given their thorny relationship over the years, the sources added. According to sources close to Munda, the former chief minister has propped up another veteran leader CP Singh for the coveted job.
Aware of the fact that Munda could spoil his party, Das has called on former chief minister thrice after the results were announced.
Apart from Das, other names also in the reckoning for the chief minister's post include Jamshedpur West legislator Saryu Rai, Ranchi legislator CP Singh and the two Union ministers from Jharkhand - Sudarshan Bhagat and Jayant Sinha.
Sources said that the leadership may try to placate Munda by offering him a post in the central organisation or giving him a Rajya Sabha berth.