New UP chief minister to be decided today

Lucknow, Mar 18: Newly-elected BJP MLAs in Uttar Pradesh will be meeting here today to elect the leader of the state legislature party.

The meeting will be held at 4 PM at Lok Bhawan, state BJP spokesperson Manish Dixit said. Central observers - Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and national general secretary Bhupendra Yadav -- will remain present at the meeting to elect the chief minister.

BJP vice-president Om Mathur, state party chief Keshav Prasad Maurya and other senior party leaders are also likely to attend the meet.

"The new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh along with his Cabinet colleagues would take oath on March 19 at 5.00 PM at Kanshiram Smriti Upvan," Governor Ram Naik had said in a statement yesterday.

Union Minister Manoj Sinha, Home Minister and former state chief minister Rajnath Singh, Maurya and eight-time MLA from Shahjahanpur Suresh Khanna are being projected as the main contenders for the post by their partymen. 

All these leaders in their interactions with the media have played down their chances. Sinha was in Varanasi yesterday where he offered prayers at Sankatmochan temple.

The BJP is forming government in the politically crucial state after a gap of 15 years. 

In the recently-concluded Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, the party secured 312 seats in a 403-member house, while its allies Apna Dal (Soneylal) and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party got nine and four seats respectively.

Samajwadi Party bagged 47 seats, while its ally the Congress stooped to its lowest tally with seven seats.

Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party could manage to get only 19 seats in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly. With the BJP leadership often springing a surprise with its choice of state leaders like Manohar Lal Khattar in Haryana, Vijay Rupani in Gujarat and now Trivendra Singh Rawat in Uttarakhand, sources have said that a relatively lesser known leader cannot be ruled out.

The central observers will most likely inform the MLAs about the BJP top brass' choice which will be subsequently endorsed at the meeting today.

The BJP top brass has taken its time to decide on the UP Chief Minister after results were declared on March 11.

PTI