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Uttar Pradesh: Manoj Sinha says 'not in race for UP CM post', but indications suggest otherwise

Just when the media circles are warm with rumours claiming to have cracked the mystery around BJP's pick for Uttar Pradesh chief minister, the saffron party has a way of surprising everyone.

As media circles were busy proclaiming, how MoS(Independent Charge) Department of Telecommunication, Manoj Sinha becoming UP chief minister was a done deal, the man himself has dismissed speculations around his name being considered in the chief ministerial race in UP stating that he was not a part of any such race.

"Naa mujhe kisi race kaa pata hai, naa main kisi race main hun (neither do I know about any race (for UP CM), nor I am in any race," Manoj Sinha told reporters on Friday outside Parliament.

Rajnath Singh, who was also considered among the frontrunners in the race, had also dismissed reports in a similar fashion on Wednesday, calling them "baseless and futile."

BJP state unit chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, who is being credited for a large chunk of the OBC votes BJP garnered in these polls, also bowed out of the race as he was given the responsibility to choose the party's pick to lead Uttar Pradesh government. "How can I choose myself," Maurya had responded mysteriously to reporters when asked whether he was still in the race to be the chief minister.

And now comes Sinha's comments, which are likely to keep everyone on tenterhooks, until 4 pm on Saturday when the final announcement will be made, according to CNN-News18. The announcement is likely to come after the newly elected BJP MLAs in Uttar Pradesh will meet to elect their legislature party leader, a week after the party's emphatic victory.

The repeated dismissal of reports by BJP leaders could mean that none of these leaders but a dark horse is likely to spring surpirse on everyone by winning the race. However, given the strong undercurrents in favour of Sinha, it could also be a simple strategy to keep the lid on rumours and keep everyone guessing until the party puts out  a formal communication. If reports from various news sources is to be believed, it is merely a matter of formality before Sinha is elected to lead the UP legislature. Meanwhile, here is a glimpse into who the man is and why we think he deserves a chance to head his home state as BJP is set to form a majority government.

 Uttar Pradesh: Manoj Sinha says not in race for UP CM post, but indications suggest otherwise

Manoj Sinha in a file image. News18

As a report in The Times of India points out, Sinha picked up fame in politics at an early age. He was initiated to the aleph of politics at the young age of 23 as he became the student union president in the reputed Benaras Hindu University. He then made his mark as a leader of the grounds, when he moved on to the national dais by winning the Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket in 1996 from Ghazipur and then again in 1999.

In 2014, riding the Modi wave, Sinha became a third-time parliamentarian, but this time he caught the prime minister's eye, who is himself an organisational man, and came to the limelight as one of many first time ministers in Modi's cabinet.

An M.Tech in civil engineering, Sinha if picked as the UP chief minister, also flaunts the qualification to head a state and demography as vast and complex as Uttar Pradesh.

The IIT-alumni is also known for his wit and oratory skills. When asked about his chances to head his home state after the resounding BJP win, Sinha quipped in poetically, "Khwahishe badi bewafa hoti hain, puri hote hi badal jaati hain... isliye main aisi koi khwahishein nahi palta (Ambitions are capricious, they change the moment they are fulfilled, which is why I do not harbour any such ambitions.)," as quoted by ABP news

Sinha was handpicked by Modi to assist Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu as a Minister of State, but he worked his way up impressing the prime minister to earn independent charge as the Minister of State in the telecommunications ministry.

He is known to be a soft-spoken calm personality. The 57-year-old leader is in the league of the top-job as he is in the good books of both, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah after he impressed the duo with his performance as deputy to Prabhu.

Moreover, Sinha also performed rather impressively and further rose in the eyes of the central and state leadership by planting BJP's roots in seven Assembly segments that fall in his constituency in the 2017 polls. In 2012 the BJP had failed to secure even one of these seats, and even this year the contest wasn't easy as Akhilesh Yadav had appointed four sitting legislators from the region in his cabinet, according to Business Standard.

He was also given the responsibility to oversee development work in prime minister's constituency Varanasi, not much far from his own, and Sinha seems to have impressed Modi even there.

What adds on to his credibility and popularity in the region is further displayed by an anecdote as reported in CNN-News18. A local BJP worker opened a dhaba in the outskirts of Sinha's constituency and hometown Ghazipur. He sent Sinha an invite to inaugurate the eatery, not really expecting a Union minister and Member of Parliament to turn up, but he did. This not only surprised the BJP worker but cemented his place in the hearts of people in his constituency who heard about the incident.

Sinha, according to CNN-News18,is also known to keep in close touch with his constituency, where at least until late last year, he was in the habit of spending his weekends. He holds regular meetings at his residence and is considered approachable, despite his stature as a minister in the Central government.

Weigh him on the caste scales, so painstakingly balanced by Amit Shah's political strategists, and Sinha comes out to be more or less the ideal pick once again. He belongs to the Bhumihar caste that is so few in number and concentrated solely along the Poorvanchal belt, that Sinha almost becomes a caste-neutral candidate. Unlike Yadavs and Jatavs or Muslims and Jats there are no inherent anti-Bhumihar narrative present amid any other social group. Plus, his stature as a national leader and minister in the Centre further lends him some immunity from the regional caste biases.

Another reason why the saffron party has reportedly zeroed down upon Sinha is because he is the least opposed leader. With a clean image, and a reputation as an astute grassroots politician who earned his way up the ladder through sheer hard work, Sinha is a man with few enemies.

Besides, Sinha would have been a natural choice in ruling out the least suited candidates amid the crop of frontrunners the party faced after the victory. True that many party workers and leaders were rooting for the return of Rajnath Singh, but it would have been much difficult for Modi to find himself both, a Home Minister and a Defence Ministrer from the current rank and file of the saffron party. Besides looking at the situation in the country, from Sukma to Shopian, the home minister really had too much on his plate to relinquish all duties and hand over the key portfolio to a novice.

Take, on the other hand, the BJP state unit chief KP Maurya, who was until Thursday considered the top contender for the key job. While Maurya, an OBC coming from humble beginnings like Modi, had orchestrated the BJP win by augmenting the non-Yadav, non-Jatav backward class vote for the party, he had his blind spots.

Maurya's image as an extreme right-winger and the close to 10 criminal cases lodged against him, including charges of murder, made it tough for the BJP to appoint him chief minister. Certainly Akhilesh Yadav wouldn't have forgotten all those Gayatri Prajapati jibes, that Modi made to take on his government. Maurya's tainted background would have come to haunt the party.

That said, whether the outcome of the BJP MLAs meet puts another dark horse at the helm, or whether the mild-mannered grassroots leader Sinha is given a chance, the BJP is right in not hurrying up the decision. Given the political significance of the state, which will send 80 MPs to the Lower House in 2019, the BJP does not want to botch up the chance it was handed out to impress the Uttar Pradesh voters by delivering the so promised "progressive governance". The party needs a man who would not only quell sounds of discord amid the party but run the state in tandem with the Centre's vision and electoral promises.

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Updated Date: Mar 17, 2017 17:06:27 IST