Hectic manoeuvres are on, mainly in the Bharatiya Janata Party camp, as the party seems set to form governments in four out of the five states that went to polls in the past few weeks. The manipulative mechanics of various camps within the party is now playing out in full vigour. Following are the main names who are tugging it off in this last mile for the contest to the hot seat.
Though all the exit polls show BJP a whisker away from getting an absolute majority, I feel like sticking my neck out to vouch for a comfortable BJP majority. The party should get somewhere between 225 to 240 seats in a house of 403. Though Uttar Pradesh is a cumbersome state with many important players like former Chief Minister and present Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and vitriolic eastern UP leader Yogi Adityanath in action, it's going to be quite easy for the central command of the BJP — namely the Modi-Shah duo — to choose the CM.
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Modi needs a low-profile follower in a state, which is going to be important in his play of the game of thrones here onwards. And Keshav Prasad Maurya, the state unit head of the BJP, suits the bill. Maurya is seen to be a lacklustre and dull leader and hence fully suits the transformational dynamics being played out by Amit Shah where everyone is seen only as a foot soldier of Modi. Maurya is a diehard Modi follower, comes from a backward caste and has a clean image.
Though the RSS has asked the Shah-Modi duo to also consider possibilities of elevating Ram Lal to UP CM's post, latter — the present organisation secretary of the BJP who is a staunch RSS pracharak — is much-needed in the party headquarters to strategise the crucial Assembly polls coming up down south. But he might still just get the post, much like Narendra Modi got in Gujarat, where he was also the general secretary of the party when he was made the state CM.
Again, though the exit poll results don't give a clear sweep, I see quite a definite win for the BJP in the hill state. And choosing the CM candidate is causing some headache to the party here. The strings are being pulled by four competent and aspiring players.
The party's first choice is Trivendra Singh Rawat, an RSS man, candidate from Doiwala constituency near Dehradun. Rawat lost the race twice, in 2012 and in a bypoll in 2014 and both the times it was BJP leader and former CM Ramesh Pokhriyal who was seen to have sabotaged Rawat's victory.
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Pokhrial has since been shifted to New Delhi as an MP, but pines to head the state once again. Though he was cajoled well in advance not to muddy up Rawat's chances this time round, only the results will show how far the directive was absorbed.
Also, because Pokhriyal is busy cranking up his own case for being back as the CM, his chances depend upon the persuasive powers of Baba Ramdev, who is close to the Brahmin leader and was also responsible for getting him relocated as an MP from Haridwar within the BJP.
Trying to edge out the two is Vijay Bahuguna, who has not forgotten the unceremonious way in which he was evicted from the CM's post by the Congress. Many say his sole purpose of then defecting from the Congress and joining the BJP is that of coming back as CM, only to thumb it hard in the Congress' nose.
It is not going to be easy to avoid him, as he did bring in loads of funds for many poor but winnable BJP candidates this time round. Vijay Bahuguna did not contest this time but will seek nomination through a bypoll if he conjures out the CM post for himself.
All this stringing can tilt the scales towards yet another quiet aspirant; Satpal Maharaj. The godman is a Thakur Rawat and has been with the BJP now for more than two years, without much work to do. But he was promised decent relocation and his growing popularity as a religious leader in Rajasthan and Haryana can see things turning in his favour for good.
This one looks simple. Manohar Parrikar looks all set to return as the chief minister, with the present CM Laxmikanth Parsekar having been offered a decent and seemingly upward relocation to the Centre. Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu might get the defence minister's post.
Still much easier to fathom! Amrendra Singh will take the chair if the Congress wins. In the remote chance that AAP makes it, Bhagwant Mann will become the CM. Navjot Singh Sidhu only gets to 'thoko a taali.'
BJP has many plans set to stamp its arrival in yet another Northeastern state. Not much confusion here, since Bhabananda Singh; the state unit chief of the BJP and a renowned Modi lover, will take over the chief minister.