The crucial issue of picking Chief Ministers for three heartland states ahead of next year's general elections continued today with a meeting of BJP's top leaders at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's official residence. Earlier today, the 12 MPs who resigned from parliament after winning the assembly polls had met the Prime Minister. Sources indicate that this could be meet to take the final call.
Among the 12 MPs who resigned were Narendra Tomar, Prahlad Patel, Riti Pathak, Rakesh Singh, and Uday Pratap Singh from Madhya Pradesh, and Rajyavardhan Rathore, Kirodi Lal Meena, and Diya Kumari from Rajasthan.
Earlier this week, the BJP wrested Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh from the Congress and retained its hold on Madhya Pradesh amid a buzz of anti-incumbency.
In all three states, the party had gone into polls without a Chief Ministerial candidate, contesting under the banner of PM Modi -- a move that delivered in spades.
Now with the victory, the knotty question of who would helm the states has come up. The brain-storming has been on since Sunday, feeding speculation about a hunt for new faces.
Today's session is the second consecutive meet -- yesterday the leaders had been in in a four-hour huddle. The three states together account for 65 Lok Sabha seats and a wrong decision can prove expensive for the BJP in 2024.
Sources indicated that PM Modi is in favour of picking candidates on basis of class rather than caste. The buzz is that a tribal could be picked for Chhattisgarh, a Backward Classes representative in Madhya Pradesh and a Rajput in Rajasthan.
The candidate also has to be from the youth, working classes or a woman, who would anchor the party in the state and be a quiet worker who would stay away from flashy statements and decisions.
The tallest leaders of the states -- Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh and four-time Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan, while being in the running, have left the decision to the Central leadership.
Of these, Rajasthan has the longest list of contenders. Besides Ms Raje, the front-runners include Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, part veteran Kirori Lal Meena and state BJP chief CP Joshi.
Earlier today, shivraj Singh Chouhan, who led the party to a historic victory in Madhya Pradesh, riding on welfare schemes like "Laadli behena", made a remark that was seen as a subtle reminder by many.
Speaking to reporters at an event in Bhopal, he said the BJP government is treading the path shown by Dalit icon BR Ambedkar. "Under the leadership of Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, we are working for the welfare of the last person in society," he said.
"Laadli Behna" came amid a buzz of public discontent over delivery on welfare schemes and is seen to have been a gamechanger for the BJP.
Besides Mr Chouhan, the other names doing the rounds are of Union ministers Prahlad Singh Patel and Jyotiraditya Scindia (both leaders from the Other Backward Classes, which make up around half the state's population), BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
The dark horses in the race include two Brahmin leaders: State party chief and first-time MP VD Sharma, and fifth-time MLA and a minister in the outgoing state cabinet, Rajendra Shukla, both of whom hail from the Vindhya region.
Among the contenders in Chhattisgarh are former Chief Minister Raman Singh, state BJP president Arun Kumar Sao, leader of the opposition Dharamlal Kaushik and former IAS officer O P Chaudhary.