Bharatiya Janata Party Vice-President Kalraj Mishra, who is one of the front-runners for the chief ministership of Uttar Pradesh if some miraculous results give his party the mandate, has ruled out Uma Bharti occupying the post in the state.
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Though Mishra is all-praise for Bharti, he does not agree that she is a prospective chief ministerial candidate of BJP if the party comes to power.
BJP President Nitin Gadkari has hinted at prospective candidates when he said elections in the state were being fought under the leadership of Kalraj Mishra, Uma Bharti, former party president Rajnath Singh and state unit president Surya Pratap Shahi.
In an interview to PTI, Mishra, who is contesting on a BJP ticket from Lucknow (East), discussed his party's electoral prospects, the contentious Ayodhya Ram Temple issue, his recent yatra in Uttar Pradesh, politics of Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi as well as the issues being raised by SP and ruling BSP.
"But our party pesident has also said that Shahi is the state unit president (and hence can't hold two posts), Rajnath Singh has already said he is not in state politics now and Bharti is from outside....not from Uttar Pradesh", he said.
However, he hastened to add that this did not mean that "I am saying I am the chief ministerial candidate".
Ever since Gadkari had declared last week that Bharti will contest from Charkhari constituency of Mahoba district, speculation has been rife that she may be projected as the chief ministerial candidate.
Bharti's case is also strengthened by the fact that she is an OBC leader and the party is courting this section aggressively.
Asked if BJP would ever choose a Brahmin as chief minister in Uttar Pradesh, Mishra said a final decision would be taken by the party's parliamentary board.
The former minister of the erstwhile BSP-BJP government feels Bharti is a national leader of the party and should not be seen only in the context of UP politics.
"Moreover, she should also not be seen only as an OBC leader. She had been a union minister in NDA government. She is a Sadhvi who cannot be confined to a state. She is also a former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh", Mishra said.
He is realistic about the BJP's prospects and though he feels the party will improve its strength in the assembly.
"First, we must try to reach the position of forming the government. The results maybe chamatkari (miraculous), you never know," Mishra said.
BJP had got 51 seats in the 403-member assembly in 2007 assembly poll.
Gadkari and his team are trying to bring the party back to its old glory during the Ayodhya Ram temple movement in 1980-90s.
Mishra had undertaken a yatra from Varanasi in November last year. A simultaneous yatra was led by Rajnath Singh from Mathura.
Both these cities are on BJP's agenda due to the disputes over Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque and Lord Krishna's birthplace and the adjoining mosque.
The yatras undertaken by Mishra and Singh culminated at Ayodhya.
"The Ram temple issue is very much alive. When our yatra was on, people started saying it is not going to Ayodhya and it is not on the party's map. Hence, it was decided to make it the culmination point," Mishra said.
The BJP leader also has a word of advice for Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, saying he should mind his language during the election campaign.
Gandhi had allegedly used harsh words against Bharti and BJP during his campaign.
"I feel that either Rahul Gandhi does not understand the meaning of these words or is deliberately insulting the youth and the people of Uttar Pradesh. It would be better if he keeps the meaning of these words in mind while using them. People are not getting attracted to Congress by his words," he said.
Mishra said while virtually the whole cabinet of the BSP government under Mayawati was "corrupt", people of UP have not forgotten the "law and order problems" of the earlier SP government.