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New BJP chief only in March

- Rajnath to choose from Prasad, Das and Rai
Rajnath Singh

New Delhi, Feb. 25: The BJP is in no hurry to appoint a new state chief for Jharkhand.

Party president Rajnath Singh today said Jharkhand BJP would get a new chief only in March, after the party’s national executive in Delhi from March 1 to 3. Sources close to Rajnath, who as a general secretary had looked after Jharkhand party affairs for years and is familiar with its socio-political dynamics, said there were “issues” to be sorted and, therefore, nothing is likely to happen in a hurry.

“Right now, we are preoccupied with the budget session (in Parliament) and preparing for our council meeting,” Rajnath told The Telegraph.

Sources said three names were on Rajnath’s table: Rakesh Prasad, Raghubar Das and Ravindra Rai.

Former chief minister Arjun Munda, who met the BJP president here today, was reportedly in favour of Rai, an upper caste Bhumihar. Sources said Munda, who is trying hard to reconsolidate his position in the party after being unseated, argued that in order to “balance the demographics” of Jharkhand — that has a sizeable non-tribal population comprising upper castes, backward castes and Dalits — it made sense to have an upper caste president. Sources said his contention was since there were too many claimants for tribal votes, the upper castes felt short-changed.

“Munda’s assumption while pitching for Rai is that as a tribal, he will be projected again as the chief ministerial candidate in the next election,” a source said, adding that some central leaders were not in favour of foregrounding Munda.

Of the three prospective candidates, Prasad, the state vice-president, is an OBC. Das, an MLA, belongs to the Telli caste, classified as a Bania in Jharkhand and as such falls into a slightly grey caste zone. Rai is a Bhumihar and, therefore, the only upper caste candidate.

“The candidates have their pluses and minuses. The main criterion is which of them can carry the entire party along. The person should also be strong on ideology and not be obsessed with caste,” Munda told The Telegraph.

Das is a lateral entrant into the BJP and not of RSS provenance. Rai and Prasad came into the party through the RSS’ student front, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or ABVP.

Those not in favour of centre-staging Munda contended that he was “not temperamentally suited” to head a coalition.

“Let us be realistic. Neither Congress nor BJP is placed to get a majority on its own in the foreseeable future. We have to work in tandem with the regional parties and not play big brother,” a source said.

Munda, the source said, was the reason why veteran BJP leader Babulal Marandi left the party, floated his own outfit and ensured the BJP’s sphere of influence was contained.

“He cuts heavily into our votes in places,” a source admitted.

With the return of Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti in the BJP, some felt Rajnath should try and get Marandi back before the next elections, even if it meant a heavy tag like entrusting him with the leadership.


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