4 Dec 2023

BJP contemplating options for CM candidates in 3 states following a resounding victory

Discussion about the Bharatiya Janata Party exploring alternative leadership in Madhya Pradesh faded as Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan asserted his widespread acceptance on a day when the party secured a remarkable two-thirds majority in retaining power.

In the run-up to the assembly polls, the BJP opted not to name a chief ministerial candidate in any state. Although Chouhan is a favored candidate to continue leading in MP, the competition for leadership is wide open in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, states where the BJP wrested power from the Congress.

Several potential contenders for the top position in the three Hindi-speaking states did not participate in the assembly polls. However, this may not be a decisive factor, considering the party's history of trusting leaders who were not assembly members, for example Yogi Adityanath in 2017.

Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, who contested from Dimani assembly seat, and Jyotiraditya Scindia have long been considered chief ministerial hopefuls in Madhya Pradesh. Prahlad Patel has also emerged as a formidable contender.

Party can opt for a fresh face in desert state

In Rajasthan, the BJP's comfortable majority suggests that the party might opt for a fresh face as the chief ministerial choice, even though Vasundhara Raje, a two-term former chief minister, is a natural contender due to her stature and substantial support.

Potential candidates in Rajasthan

Potential candidates in Rajasthan include Union ministers Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Arjun Ram Meghwal, state party president C P Joshi, Diya Kumari, a prominent figure during the campaign, and Mahant Balaknath. Meghwal's Scheduled Caste background and Balaknath's Yadav identity, the most numerous OBC community in Hindi-speaking states, are seen as advantageous for them.

BJP sources suggest that figures like Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, with a three-term MLA background and the confidence of the party leadership, could also be natural contenders.

Party is likely to factor in larger social narrative

With the next Lok Sabha polls just four months away, the party is likely to consider the broader social narrative in selecting chief ministers for the three states. This perspective may pose a challenge for someone like Shekhawat in Rajasthan, given his Rajput caste, shared with Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath and Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami.

This scenario could favor someone like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the sole OBC community chief minister in the BJP and a popular figure. Despite the significant support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's agenda across states, the BJP acknowledges the mandate as providing flexibility in choosing chief ministers for all three states.

Potential contenders in Chhattisgarh

In Chhattisgarh, potential contenders for the top job include former chief minister Raman Singh, state BJP president Arun Kumar Sao, leader of the opposition Dharamlal Kaushik, and former IAS officer O P Chaudhary. Except for Singh, all three leaders belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBC).

It's worth noting that the BJP leadership has a history of surprising observers with its chief ministerial selections. The latest Election Commission trends indicate the BJP heading towards a clear majority in the 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly, the 200-member Rajasthan assembly, and a likely two-thirds majority in the 230-member Madhya Pradesh assembly.

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