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Rai holds back on future CM

Ranchi, June 2: State BJP president Ravindra Rai today expressed confidence in the leadership of Arjun Munda but did not go all the way to declare him as the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

“The issue has not yet been formally discussed at any party forum. Individual members are free to express their own views. As of now we have full faith in Munda’s leadership and abilities. The party high-command would decide who will become the chief minister, if voted to power or who should be projected as the chief ministerial candidate during the coming Vidhan Sabha elections,” he told The Telegraph.

While the issue of projecting Munda — widely accepted to be the force behind the BJP’s stellar show of winning 12 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand — was kept open, Rai admitted that a section of party workers were wondering aloud whether it was time for a non-tribal to take over the top post in the state.

That former Union minister Yashwant Sinha did not contest the Lok Sabha elections has given credence to speculation that he would now concentrate on state politics.

His son, Jayant’s landslide victory in Hazaribagh amidst all odds may have emboldened Munda’s detractors within the BJP fold to raise the issue of a non-tribal chief minister.

Sinha, who has never really been on the same page with Munda, could not be contacted for comments. But, a senior BJP leader made it clear that it was difficult to “disturb” Munda so long as Rajnath Singh was sitting at the helm of BJP affairs in Delhi.

But, if and when Singh relinquishes the post of party president to concentrate on his ministerial responsibilities, Munda would have to face his detractors on his own.

“Whether Jharkhand should have a non-tribal chief minister is being debated by the BJP workers since long. OBCs, Dalits and upper castes form a sizeable section of the BJP support-base. It is the party high-command’s responsibility to respect the feelings of every section of society. But, this does not mean that I nurse personal vendetta against Munda. I will always honour the party’s decision,” clarified former deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader Raghuvar Das.

Munda was undeterred by all the speculation. He said that a competent person should be projected chief minister, arguing that debates over a tribal or non-tribal leader were unwarranted and would further complicate matters.

“I have been shouldering responsibilities the party assigned me. Tomorrow I will be participating in an office-bearers meeting to discuss future plans. This will be the first such meeting after the Lok Sabha elections,” he said.