New Delhi, March 11 : Former state BJP chief Trivendra Singh Rawat and party National Executive member Satpal Maharaj have emerged front runners for the Chief Minister’s post in Uttarakhand following the BJP’s landslide win, informed sources said on Saturday.
Rawat, an organisational man of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttarakhand and party in-charge in Jharkhand, won his traditional Doiwala seat by defeating Congress’ Hira Singh Bisht with a margin of over 24,000 votes.
Rawat, a swayamsewak of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), is considered close to BJP President Amit Shah. He was in close touch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the latter was a General Secretary (Organisation) of the BJP and in charge of Uttarakhand.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Rawat was given responsibility of regional election in-charge in Uttar Pradesh under Shah where the BJP emerged victorious. He is also credited for the BJP’s win in Jharkhand.
“Rawat is a man of the organisation and has a clean image. He is close to RSS, PM Modi and Shah too,” a senior BJP leader from Uttarakhand told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Asked about Satpal Maharaj’s prospects, the BJP leader said: “Maharajji is very popular and has lakhs of followers. But one factor working against him is that he came into the BJP fold after leaving Congress.”
Maharaj, the head of the Manav Utthan Sewa Samiti, teaches meditation techniques called “Knowledge” and has a huge following across the state and other parts of the country.
He is considered a good administrator and has served as Union Minister of State for Railways.
In February 2014, Satpal Majaraj openly criticised Harish Rawat’s elevation as Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and a month later quit the Indian National Congress and joined the BJP.
Maharaj won Chaubattakhal constituency by defeating Congress’ Rajpal Singh Bisht with a margin of over 5,000 votes.
Besides these two leaders, state BJP chief Ajay Bhatt is also a likely contender, but he lost his own election from Ranikhet assembly seat.
He was defeated by Karan Mahara of Congress by a margin of 4,981 votes.
Sources in the BJP say that if Bhatt had won, he would have been a strong contender for the post.
Other senior leaders, including former Chief Ministers B.C. Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Vijay Bahuguna, Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank are also lobbying to become Chief Minister of the state.
According to BJP sources, none of these are likely to be considered for Chief Minister.
“Khanduri is almost unlikely because of his age (82). Bahuguna switched to BJP after a long career in Congress. Nishank is a Brahmin face but he is an MP and is likely to work in national politics. Koshyari has also very little chance,” another BJP leader said.
BJP President Amit Shah said on Saturday that the Chief Minister candidate will be “decided on the basis of merit. We will elect the best”.
The BJP has convened its Parliamentary Board, the highest decision making body of the party, on Sunday to decide the name of the Chief Ministerial candidates of the states where it has emerged victorious.
The BJP is headed for a landslide in Uttarakhand, leading on 57 seats against the Congress’ 11 in the 70-member assembly.