The Bharatiya Janata Party will not project a chief ministerial candidate in any of the five state elections due later this year, particularly in the majority Hindi-speaking states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, senior BJP sources told NDTV on Monday, adding the party plans to rely on “collective leadership” to win these polls and those in Telangana and Mizoram.
This insight into the BJP’s strategy comes amid speculation over Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan‘s immediate political future. Mr Chouhan, 64, has not been named as a candidate so far, sparking talk the party might axe him to counter anti-incumbency.
Earlier today party sources told NDTV talk that Mr Chouhan will be dropped is “completely wrong”, but the caveat that “any leader can become chief minister” haven’t exactly resolved the matter.
The “collective leadership” message was floated in that context too and the party has indicated that, should it win the polls, a chief minister will then be selected by the newly-elected lawmakers.
In Rajasthan, where the BJP is in the opposition, this tactic means it will contest without a chief minister candidate for the first time. Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, a prominent face of the Scindia royal family and the party’s tallest leader in the state, is widely seen as shoo-in.
As early as January there was buzz about Ms Raje being named as the candidate for the top job, with posters declaring her as such appeared outside the party’s state head office in Jaipur.
Earlier posters featured Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party boss JP Nadda, with state chief Satish Poonia and Gulab Chand Kataria, who is the Leader of the Opposition.
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Arjun Ram Meghwal, both union ministers, are also contenders.
However, in signs all is not well in Rajasthan, Mr Meghwal this month found himself caught up in corruption allegations levelled by MLA Kailash Meghwal, who has since been suspended.
For now, though, the BJP seems content to rely on “collective leadership” to re-take Rajasthan.
Over in Chhattisgarh – also Congress-ruled – the BJP has what would be ‘traditional’ options in former Chief Minister Raman Singh and state boss Arun Sao, but is likely to go the “collective” route.
Senior BJP sources have big hopes from the “collective leadership” plan, pointing to the party’s victory in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election as a template for future state polls.