UP BJP president Maurya as CM candidate? It could be a game-changer
- The BJP has not decided who its CM candidate in Uttar Pradesh will be
- Yet, speculation is rife about names like Smriti Irani, Varun Gandhi and Rajnath Singh
- The latest whisper in the BJP corridors is about Keshav Prasad Maurya
- He was recently made the UP BJP president, with an eye on the OBC vote
- The problems each of the other contenders might face
- Why Maurya makes a lot of sense for the central leadership
The media keeps asking him the same question, and Amit Shah keeps giving the same answer: the BJP has not decided its Chief Ministerial candidate for Uttar Pradesh yet, and there's no discussion within the party on this issue.
However, speculation still abounds, and candidates' names keep floating about. Smriti Irani, Varun Gandhi, Rajnath Singh, Yogi Adityanath, Ram Shankar Katheria, and even former CM and current Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh have been touted as CM candidates.
The latest name to be thrown into the conversation is that of BJP's state unit president, Keshav Prasad Maurya.
However, party sources insist that all these names are being projected by enthusiastic supporters, and have nothing to do with the choice or opinion of the central leadership.
The OBC factor
Of all these possible candidates, the least known one in Delhi circles is Maurya, the MP from Phulpur. His elevation to the state presidency was a tactical move by the party to appease the OBC voters, in times when it is virtually certain about its clout among the upper castes.
Within the corridors of the BJP's headquarters and the RSS Delhi headquarters in Jhandewalan, there are whispers that Maurya would be a competent face.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, on the other hand, is set to be named as the chief of the BJP's campaign committee in the state.
The party probably won't be announcing this move anytime soon. "It is possible that the name might be announced in the month of October, if it decides to make such an announcement at all before the election," the source said.
Where others fall flat
There are enough reasons for the party to shoot down the other candidates' names, if at all there is a discussion on this matter.
- There are strong reservations in the RSS about Varun Gandhi.
- Rajnath Singh is opposed to Adityanath, since he would be another Rajput face from the same region as him - Purvanchal.
- Smriti Irani is an outsider, and many in the RSS, and even the central and state units of the BJP, would not agree to her candidature.
- Kalyan Singh is too old.
- Ram Shankar Katheria is a Dalit face, who would not acceptable to the party's core upper caste voters. At the same time, the percentage of non-Jatav Dalits in the state is not big enough for his name to add value to the party.
- Rajnath, indeed, is a very competent name. He has served as the Chief Minister of UP, and is undoubtedly the biggest face from the state in the party. He holds one of the most important portfolios in the Modi cabinet, and is the only leader tall enough to oppose Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati strongly. But a person with such a strong profile is not a good choice in the eyes of the PM and the party president. Rajnath being strong in the state could prove to be a challenge to Modi in 2019. Modi would not want a state which gave him 73 seats to be turned over to a potential intra-party challenger.
What works for Maurya
What works in Maurya's favour are his connections with the RSS and the VHP. In UP, RSS affairs are being controlled by Dattatreya Hosabale and Krishna Gopal, both of whom hold the seh-sarkaryawah position within the organisation. Both have a very good understanding with Maurya, who was serving the VHP while they worked in the state.
At the same time, Maurya is not a high-profile leader who could turn out to be a problem for Modi and Shah. In fact, he would be the best man for the top brass, as he would follow instructions obediently and remain just a face in the state.
This will help Modi and Shah keep absolute control on the state government if the BJP ends up winning the Assembly polls.
Maurya's rapport with the RSS as well as the BJP's central leadership is something others lack. This is what makes him an outstanding and believable choice as the CM face in the state.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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