New Delhi: The BJP will finalise who will be Uttar Pradesh's next chief minister on Saturday, March 18, at a meeting that evening of its 312 new lawmakers in the state. Amid much speculation that union Home Minister Rajnath Singh could be sent to his home state as the next chief minister, sources said the BJP's top leadership is as yet undecided on this and front runners for the post remain union minister Manoj Sinha and the party's state chief Keshav Maurya.
- Manoj Sinha, Keshav Maurya are frontrunners in race for UP Chief Minister
- Manoj Sinha, a civil engineer, is the union minister for Telecom
- Keshav Prasad Maurya is BJP's Uttar Pradesh chief
The party has quickly formed governments in Goa and Manipur, states where it did not win a majority, but is yet to name a Chief Minister for UP, where it has won a landslide mandate in what is seen as the party's most important win since the 2014 national election.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah, sources said, are trying to ensure they pick a person who will be universally acceptable as they attempt to balance the BJP's development agenda with the caste equations that matter much in UP. Their sights are set firmly on the 2019 national election when the party will want to retain the many new voters that it has gained in these assembly elections.
The list of front-runners has narrowed to two for now - with the pros and cons of appointing each being weighed very carefully. Central Minister for Telecom Manoj Sinha is a civil engineer who is considered a good administrator. He holds an engineering degree from the famous Banaras Hindu University or BHU.
But Mr Sinha's big drawback is that he belongs to the general caste. The BJP would not like to upset the Dalit and Backward Caste voters who switched to the party in these assembly elections, voting for it in big numbers.
Picking Keshav Maurya, a Most Backward Classes or MBC leader will address that problem. Mr Maurya was appointed the BJP's state president last year for exactly that reason as the party reached out to voters of that community ahead of the elections.
In another plus, Mr Maurya is from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, the BJP's ideological mentor.
The BJP is however worried that Mr Maurya has a number of cases against him including those of murder and criminal intimidation and that it could be targeted by political rivals after basing much its UP campaign against outgoing Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his Samajwadi Party on the poor law and order and what it calls "goonda (hooligan) rule" in UP during its term.
The BJP is also consulting the RSS on the key decision. To fill the long gap between the election results last Saturday and the announcement on who will be chief minister, the party is attempting to keep restless workers engaged with preps for a massive victory celebration across the state on Saturday March 18.