OBCs in Bihar want their candidate to head the state unit of the party.
The two states of West Bengal and Bihar, which will be going to the polls within the next two years, are going to see new BJP presidents.
The present Bihar BJP president Nityanand Rai, who was appointed on the said post in December 2016, has now joined the Union Cabinet as Minister of State, Home.
Party sources said that the state leadership and the Central leadership were dealing with two different arguments from different groups while deciding on what should be the social criteria for appointing the new president.
While one group is pushing for appointing someone from the forward castes, in view of the perceived anger among the Bhumihar lobby over their alleged sidelining by the party in the state, the other group feels that appointing someone from the upper castes and not promoting a leader belonging to the backward castes will affect the party’s performance in the state in the long run.
In the present Cabinet, there are six Lok Sabha MPs from Bihar. They are: Ravi Shankar Prasad, Giriraj Singh, R.K. Singh, Ashwini Choubey, Nityanand Rai and Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP). All, apart from Paswan and Nityanand Rai (OBC), are from the forward caste.
A Patna-based BJP leader said: “We have to balance the wishes of both the forward and backward castes. A substantial representation to the forward castes has been given in the Cabinet. As far as the new party president is concerned, it is going to be a tricky business, as the Bhumihar lobby is pushing for someone from their own caste as the new party president. On the other hand, we cannot give a message that we do not care for the backwards.”
Earlier in April second week, former Union minister and the most prominent Bhumihar face of the party, C.P. Thakur, had gone public over the alleged sidelining of Bhumihar leaders in the state, following which party president Amit Shah had met him in Delhi to mollify him.
Party sources said the names of former Union minister Radha Mohan Singh, who is the MP from Purvi Champaran, journalist-turned-politician Devesh Kumar, who was earlier a spokesperson and was promoted to vice-president in March 2017, and that of Rajendra Singh, who is presently the party’s general secretary, are some of the names that will be considered for the post of the state president when the discussion comes up. All these leaders belong to the forward castes.
Before Nityanand Rai was appointed the party president in December 2016, the party’s affairs were being handled by Mangal Pandey. Pandey had replaced C.P. Thakur, who had replaced Radha Mohan Singh, who had come in place of Gopal Narayan Singh. Before Singh, the party was headed by Nand Kishore Yadav who had succeeded BJP’s stalwart Sushil Kumar Modi.
If the party decides to go for someone from the backward castes, Patna-based party leaders said, the name of MLA from Digha, Sanjeev Chaurasiya, MLC and former Union minister Sanjay Paswan and that of agriculture minister and the MLA from Gaya, Prem Kumar, will be looked into as possible choices. The advantage with Chaurasiya is that his candidature will also be supported by Sushil Modi, who has continued to hold his position as the face of the BJP in the state for almost three decades now.
A Patna-based BJP leader from a backward community said: “A fair representation has already been given to the upper castes in the Cabinet. Only recently, Radha Mohan Sharma, a Bhumihar, was made the party MLC. The backwards have supported the Modi government in a big number in the state and it is prudent that someone who is from their community is appointed the new state president. We cannot always be dependent on the LJP and the JDU for bringing votes of the backwards for us. In the 2020 elections, we need to woo the backward voters to our fold and it is prudent that we get a party chief who is from the backward community.”
In West Bengal, the discussions among the leadership to replace the existing party chief Dilip Ghosh and find a suitable replacement are already in the final stages, senior party sources told The Sunday Guardian. Ghosh was appointed the state party president in December 2015.
According to party sources, in view of the intense rivalry among the local leaders in the state, the party is looking to appoint someone from the organisation who can take all the factions along. Elections in the state are scheduled for April 2021 and the BJP leadership believes that it is in a position to form government in the state for the first time. A senior party strategist, without disclosing the names of the probable, said: “As per our performance in Lok Sabha, we have won on 125-130 seats of the total 294 Assembly seats in the state. This result was achieved when we had no presence on the ground. We just need to put in more efforts to touch 200 seats. In this context, we need a state president who can take along the various factions that are operating in the state now. No outsider will be given this post; it will be someone from the organisation, who has good experience of West Bengal.”