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Governors in sight for six states

New Delhi, April 15: The search for six new faces to replace governors who will complete their terms by this month-end is now on in right earnest.

Officials say the decision will be taken by the weekend, though discussions between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy L.K. Advani have already begun.

BJP sources said a number of ageing leaders such as the two party vice-presidents, Kailashpati Mishra from Bihar and Pyarelal Khandelwal from Madhya Pradesh, are being considered as successors to the incumbents.

With the BJP leadership keen on a change in party image and hoping to groom younger leaders for the future, 70-plus leaders such as Mishra and Khandelwal have to be gradually eased out.

But as loyal partymen who are still active and have grassroots connections, the ageing leaders can be used by the Centre as governors and thus act as Delhi’s “eyes and ears”.

Mishra, likely to be sent either to Gujarat or Rajasthan, is trusted by Advani. He has also done good work for the party in Jharkhand. With Assembly polls due in Rajasthan in a few months, Mishra could well be sent there. The BJP hopes to oust the state’s Ashok Gehlot Congress government.

Mishra, however, might just replace Sunder Singh Bhandari as Gujarat Governor.

Khandelwal would be an ideal choice as Governor of Madhya Pradesh, his home state. But the veteran leader is close to human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi and is certainly not one of Advani’s blue-eyed boys.

He is also part of the anti-Uma Bharti camp. So he may not be the right Governor for a state, scheduled to go to the polls by November, where Bharti is the lead campaigner for the BJP.

The BJP leadership wants the entire party to support Bharti’s efforts to wrest back Madhya Pradesh from Congress’ Digvijay Singh.

Whether Khandelwal gets Madhya Pradesh or not, he is certainly in the race for some of the other vacancies, said party sources.

Hari Shankar Bhabhra, former deputy chief minister of Rajasthan, is another name doing the rounds. Bhabhra, uncomfortable with new state party chief Vasundhara Raje, may be shifted out to give her a free hand, BJP sources said. Raje is, after all, a favourite of both Vajpayee and Advani.

Former Rajasthan party leader Bhanwar Sharma, too, is a likely candidate for Governor. But Sharma himself is not too keen, preferring to retire from politics.

Former BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthy, who was unceremoniously removed as law minister and has been unhappy ever since, may also be persuaded to opt for governorship.

He had earlier rejected all party overtures, preferring to return home to Chennai. Now that tempers have cooled, he may be willing to bounce back as the Governor of an important state.

The governors of Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh and Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor, too, will step down.

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