A large section of BJP leaders in Uttar Pradesh is pushing the party’s central leadership to project a chief ministerial candidate for next year’s Assembly elections in the state. This section of BJP leaders want the successful Assam experiment—wherein the party projected Sarbananda Sonowal as its chief ministerial face—emulated in UP.
Sources said that whether, or not, the party should project a CM face in UP has been in discussion for quite some time, but no consensus has been reached so far. However, after the Assam Assembly poll results, those advocating for a CM face have renewed their efforts, asking the central leadership to emulate the experiment in UP too.
So far, the party does not have a uniform policy of announcing a chief ministerial candidate before Assembly elections. According to a party insider, the decision whether to project a CM candidate is taken on a case-to-case basis, depending on the “ground reality” in a particular state. The policy of announcing a CM candidate before the elections is unlikely to become a regular practice, he said.
Asked whether a similar experiment would be done in case of Uttar Pradesh, BJP national president Amit Shah said: “No decision has been taken on that.” Besides UP, states which are going for polls next year are Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur. A senior state BJP office-bearer said the central leadership should fix the issue immediately. “It is a big challenge to retain the gains made during the last Lok Sabha elections. We can do so only if we contest the electoral battle with a local face because the main opponents—the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party—have a clear leadership to offer. The party leadership should hammer out the issue at the earliest,” he said. The party recently appointed Keshav Prasad Maurya, an OBC, as the state BJP president.
The names which are under discussion for the CM face are of Varun Gandhi, Rajnath Singh, Manoj Sinha, Yogi Adityanath, Uma Bharti, etc. However, sources said that the BJP will wait until Congress reveals its cards.
For the past few years, there has been considerable brainstorming within the BJP leadership over the issue of going to state elections with a face. There have been mixed results of announcing a chief ministerial candidate. The party did not declare any candidate for the elections in Maharashtra, Haryana or Jharkhand in 2014, but it fared well and formed governments in these states. However, in 2015, the party announced Kiran Bedi as the CM candidate for the Delhi elections at the last moment, which boomeranged and the party suffered a massive defeat. In the Bihar elections, the party refrained from announcing any chief ministerial candidate, but lost badly.
“There cannot be a uniform policy on CM candidates. In states where there are many leaders of one level, it becomes difficult to pick a candidate. It was easy to do so in Assam as there was no bigger leader than Sonowal. Though Himanta Biswa Sarma, too, is quite experienced and has a good profile, his name was out of the question as he joined the party very recently,” said a BJP source.