UP BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey (File Photo)
Lucknow: With Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey making it to the Union cabinet, all eyes are now on who will lead the party in the politically crucial state where bypolls to 11 assembly seats are slated this year.
Leading the charge of the BJP's state unit in the Lok Sabha elections, Pandey took on a united opposition in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP won 62 of the 80 parliamentary seats and demolished the SP-BSP alliance that got 15 seats between them.
The saffron party's ally Apna Dal (S) won two seats and the Congress, the lone Rae Bareli seat of Sonia Gandhi.
Pandey, who is now Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, cannot simultaneously be minister and state president under the BJP's "one person-one post" principle.
Though leaders are tight-lipped on who will eventually head the BJP's affairs in the state, some senior party members have hinted that Uttar Pradesh minister Swatantradev Singh, MLCs Vidyasagar Sonkar and Laxman Acharya, and MP Mahesh Sharma are likely replacements for Pandey.
They, however, did not rule out that there can be new entries in the race to the coveted post in the state.
Singh was the in-charge of Madhya Pradesh for the general elections and he had the challenging task of getting a positive result for the BJP in the state, where the Congress had won the assembly elections, an Uttar Pradesh BJP leader said.
He proved his mettle and the saffron party bagged 28 out of 29 Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh, he said.
"The task was indeed very challenging as the BJP had lost in the assembly elections to the Congress. To boost the morale of party workers and ensure a positive result for the party in Madhya Pradesh were tough tasks. His (Singh's) efforts paid rich dividends for the party, as Congress bigwigs such as Digvijay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia had to taste defeat," the leader said.
BJP general secretary and MLC Vidyasagar Sonkar is also a strong contender for the post of state party president, leaders said.
"He was in-charge for all media activities during the polls, from ensuring proper press coverage of rallies and meetings of senior leaders, such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, to monitoring social media and news articles. Sonkar was also given the charge of the Lucknow and Mohanlalganj Lok Sabha seats. He also decided the party's official line on various issues and topics," the BJP leader said.
Sonkar ensured that BJP got a massive coverage in the media during the Lok Sabha polls.
Party insiders also dropped hints that BJP Member of Legislative Council (MLC) Lakshman Acharya and newly-elected Lok Sabha MP from Gautam Buddh Nagar Mahesh Sharma are dark horses in the race for BJP Uttar Pradesh chief.