Lucknow, March 11: With the BJP set for a landslide in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, speculations are rife within and outside party circles about the new Chief Minister.
For some, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is also a probable candidate for the top post in the state. The names of state BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, Union Minister Manoj Sinha and even Yogi Adityanath are doing the rounds.
Rajnath Singh has been the Chief Minister for a little over one year between 2001 and 2002. The Thakur leader, however, may not be a favourite since he is not seen as "too cosily" by Narendra Modi-Amit Shah team.
Maurya is from a Most Backward Caste and Bharatiya Janata Party's Lok Sabha MP from Phoolpur in Allahabad.
Maurya led from the front in the 2017 assembly polls in the most populous and politically significant state in the country. He criss-crossed the state in the last one year and is credited to have brought the most backward castes to the BJP camp.
BJP President Amit Shah, sources say, "designed the poll strategy in such a way that Maurya's naming as the state unit chief pepped up the MBC voters".
Maurya came up to the expectations and is indeed a front runner, a senior party leader told IANS.
The Phoolpur MP, however, refused to bite the bait and said the BJP is a "democratic party where things such as these are discussed by the Parliamentary Board".
"Till now, I was given charge of the state unit and marshalling the forces for an electoral win. I have discharged that job to the best of my abilities," he added.
Another name doing the rounds is of Manoj Sinha, the Union Minister of State for Railways. He is from Poorvanchal, where the BJP is focussing big time.
Known as "amicable" and a quiet worker, he has endeared himself to the party leadership. But many insiders feel he may not make it to the finishing line, since the BJP high command's tilt is towards an MBC or Other Backward Class.
Having decimated the Bahujan Samaj Party and hugely dented the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the OBC vote bank, the BJP is now trying to strike a balance between the Dalits, OBCs and MBCs as well as the Brahmin-Thakur voters who have long supported the party.
Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani's name has often cropped up in drawing room discussions. Being a good orator and a woman, she stands some chance, many in the BJP feel. But a section says this seems unlikely as "Modi and his team will not like to suffer for her failures in future."
Firebrand leader Yogi Adityanath, a vocal section of the party feels, should be the next Chief Minister. But his style of politics -- speaking of 'ghar wapasi', 'love jihad' and its kind -- don't make him a favourite beyond the Gorakhpur belt.
Dinesh Sharma, the Lucknow mayor and party's national Vice-President, many feel also is in the reckoning. A Brahmin face is something the party needs, a state office- bearer said.
The name of BJP National Spokesman Srikant Sharma, who contested from Mathura, is also being thrown up by some.
However, there is also a feeling that "after the Akhilesh disaster for a big state like Uttar Pradesh", the BJP will not toy with a young person, who has not even held any office so far apart from having experience in party organisation.
The BJP Parliamentary Board is slated to meet in New Delhi later on Saturday to discuss the issue of Chief Minister. A final decision is, however, likely to be taken after Holi on March 13 when the state BJP legislature party meets. Till then, rumour mills will keep working overtime in the land of Awadh.