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U'khand swearing-in on March 18, Shah keeps CM probables guessing

Five days after the election results in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand gave the BJP a resounding majority in the Assembly, the suspense over CM contenders in these two states continued on Thursday. According to reports, the new Uttarakhand government is expected to be sworn-in on March 18 in Dehradun with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah in attendance. Curiously, the party has not finalised on a name yet. The BJP has also not declared its chief minister of Uttar Pradesh where the party and its allies stormed home with 325 seats out of the state's 403.

In Uttarakhand, two central observers of the party, union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha president Saroj Pandey held a meeting with party MLAs on Thursday. Some of the names doing the rounds are Satpal Maharaj, Trivendra Singh Rawat and Prakash Pant. While Maharaj had joined the party in 2014 from the Congress, Pant is an MLA from Pithoragarh in Kumaon region.

With speculation rife over the BJP's chief ministerial pick for Uttar Pradesh, party chief Amit Shah on Thursday left everyone guessing with his remark that he has given the responsibility of choosing the CM to state unit chief Keshav Prasad Maurya.

Maurya, who is himself seen as one of the probables, then told reporters that how can he choose himself, when asked if he is a contender for the post.

Shah was asked by reporters following the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting about the chief ministerial nominee for the state.

"I have left the responsibility to Keshav (to choose the CM)," he said while leaving.

Reporters then rushed to Maurya, who was also there. There were even conjectures within the party after these remarks as to whether Maurya, who is BJP's OBC face in UP, is out of the reckoning.

Maurya was later admitted to the RML Hospital after he complained of uneasiness. According to a senior doctor of the hospital, the 48-year-old leader's blood pressure was slightly higher and he had been suffering from cold and mild fever for a week.

Shah has been holding parleys with top party leaders from UP and also Uttarakhand to decide on the choice of chief ministers for the two states. Besides Maurya, union ministers Rajnath Singh and Manoj Sinha are seen as strong contenders for the post in UP.

Trivendra Singh Rawat, Prakash Pant and Satpal Maharaj are front-runners for the job in Uttarakhand.

With the BJP leadership often surprising people with the choice of state leaders, like Manohar Lal Khattar and Vijay Rupani, both of whom were not seen as favourites to lead governments in Haryana and Gujarat, sources said relatively lesser known leaders cannot be ruled out. Newly elected UP BJP MLAs will meet in Lucknow on March 18 and are likely to elect their legislature party leader.

Party's central observers - Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and national general secretary Bhupendra Yadav - will be present at the meeting on Saturday, UP BJP General Secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak said.
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