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One year before polls, Priyanka Gandhi & Smriti Irani’s name prop up as possible CM candidate of their party


New Delhi: With the success of Nitish Kumar in neighbouring Bihar fresh on their minds, major political parties may announce their chief ministerial candidates ahead of the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.

Incumbent Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party is all set to be his party’s chief ministerial face in the polls, while BSP supremo Mayawati, a Rajya Sabha member, will look to steer her party to a comeback in the key Hindi heartland state and rule it for the fifth time.

There is talk in BJP and Congress about naming a chief ministerial candidate. Union Minister Smriti Irani, who took on Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in the Lok Sabha polls, is being talked about as one of the probables. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who helmed the state between 2000 and 2002, and commands considerable influence in the party, is another.

In poll-bound Assam, BJP has nominated Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal as its chief ministerial candidate following the party’s debacle in Bihar where it had not projected any leader for the hot seat. UP had played a stellar role in Narendra Modi’s hugely successful prime ministerial campaign in 2014, with BJP clinching 73 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats. Modi himself represents Varanasi in Parliament.

Some Uttar Pradesh Congress leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity, say it would not be a surprise if the party announces a CM candidate in the next six months. If it does, it would be probably for the first time for the party in the politically crucial state.

The name of Priyanka Gandhi is being suggested by many in the party who feel she alone has the charisma to pull the Congress out of the morass it finds itself in the state. However, another section is dismissive about such a possibility, saying Priyanka has a pan-India appeal and should not be pitchforked into an electoral contest in UP. Election strategist Prashant Kishor, who has been roped in by the Congress for the UP polls, has sought a candid response from the state leaders on the issue.

At a meeting convened by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi earlier this month, Kishor discussed whether declaring a chief ministerial candidate would make or mar the prospects of the party in the cowbelt state.

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