Now that Uttar Pradesh's electorate has answered resoundingly the question of who will govern the state, the next crucial matter to be settled is who will be the chief minister.
The question assumes paramount significance for two reasons: the BJP high command, in particular the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo, is now famous for appointing surprisingly new faces to the post as has become evident since the party taking power in Maharashtra and Haryana in 2014. The second reason is that the party has come to power after an absence of 14 years, being equated to Lord Ram's 'vanvaas' (forest exile), and the stakes and expectations are soaring to unprecedented levels.
The BJP won in Maharashtra and Haryana in the name of Modi and two extremely low-profile leaders - Devendra Fadnavis and Manohar Lal Khattar, were installed as chief ministers.
The situation is just the same in UP, party functionaries from both the state and Centre told Mail Today . "The logic is straight. The party had so far been imagining two scenarios: if the 300 mark was not breached, probables could stake their claims and the party would have had to think it over. But now that we have gone past the 300 mark, the high command can even appoint me or you," said a BJP functionary, underscoring the fact that the Modi-Shah duo was dominant enough to appoint any leader, discounting any opposition from within.
Given the scenario, there are a number of possible choices in front of the party. According to sources, the most obvious names are of MoS railways Manoj Sinha, union home minister Rajnath Singh, Thakur leader and hardliner Yogi Adityanath, Lucknow mayor and Modi-Shah confidante Dinesh Sharma, OBC leader Santosh Gangwar and, last but not the least, UP BJP chief and another OBC leader Keshav Prasad Maurya. Sources said union minister Mahesh Sharma was out of the race.
Sinha fits in Modi's development agenda, has been in politics since his days as a student leader from the right-wing ABVP in UP's Banaras Hindu University, and is seen as someone who is without any baggage and is also highly educated since he's an IIT alumnus. He is viewed as a no-no-nonsense person, credited for being efficient and a good administrator.
Yogi Adityanath, on the other hand, is the face of Hindutva in the state and is rumoured to be getting the support of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Some quarters claimed that the RSS wanted Yogi as the basis of BJP's support and earlier rule under Kalyan Singh was largely its Hindutva appeal.
On the OBC issue, party leaders said Maurya was a more complete package as he could be the replacement to the long-lost dynamics of Kalyan Singh days. The fact that BJP's victory is being ascribed to stitching back the coalition of non-Yadav OBCs and EBCs gives Maurya strong footing. Also, the credit for the victory largely goes to him almost by default as he is the reigning party chief in the state.
Another name being bandied about is of Sidharth Nath Singh, who carries the legacy of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri, whom PM Modi celebrated in Varanasi during campaigning.