DEHRADUN : If the high-voltage campaign in Dehradun and adjoining districts is any indication, the BJP—which narrowly missed the seat of power in 2012—seems to have an edge this time.
There is a clear, and curious, difference between the saffron party and its main rival, the Congress. While Chief Minister Harish Rawat has emerged as the sole gladiator from the ruling party, there is a galaxy of home-grown campaigners in the BJP. However, it’s certainly not the case of more the merrier.
With too many big leaders—including Congress defectors—on its side, the BJP is grappling with contradictions and the perennial question: kaun banega CM? While the party is busy placating a growing number of rebels, it has an uphill task to zero-in on an undisputed, unblemished, and acceptable face as the potential CM, if BJP comes to power.
The problem of plenty is the immediate concern as most of these ‘stalwarts’ are eying the CM’s chair. Leading the party into the Assembly elections was no challenge as master strategist and party president Amit Shah had carved out a path up the hills to capture the Doon valley.
“With Moditva at hand, the party did not need a face to lead it into the polls,” says a BJP leader here. “The real challenge will be after March 11 as five-six top leaders are nestling the CM ambition,” says Avikal Thapliyal, former member of state finance commission.
One of the strongest contenders is former CM and MP from Pauri Garhwal, Maj Gen B C Khanduri. He could be an apt answer to the Congress’s Harish Rawat. But at 80, age is not on his side as the new BJP dictum says those above 75 should take a margdarshak’s (mentor) role. B S Koshiyari is just shy of that mark—he is 74. MP from Haridwar, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, is said to have also thrown his hat in the ring. But his tenure as CM in the previous regime may weaken his candidature.
Congress defectors ex-CM Vijay Bahuguna and spiritual guru-turned-politician and former Union minister Satpal Maharaj are also potent candidates. But the BJP will not like to annoy the cadre by choosing either of the two, who joined the party recently.
Satpal Maharaj, who switched to the BJP just ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls, seems to be going strong in the race as the party has fielded him from his native Chaubattakhal in Pauri district.
The Sangh Pariwar is also expected to play a decisive role in the leadership issue.