Decision on next MP CM likely on Monday after BJP observers meet party MLAs

The suspense over who will become the next chief minister of Madhya Pradesh is likely to end on Monday when the BJP's 163 newly-elected legislators meet and elect their leader in the presence of central observers, a party official said.

In the November 17 parliamentary elections in Madhya Pradesh, the results of which were announced last Sunday, the BJP won a whopping 163 of the 230 seats, leaving the Congress in a distant second place with 66. The party on Friday appointed Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. , the OBC 'Morcha' chief K Laxman and his secretary Asha Lakra as central observers for the election of the leader of his legislative party in Madhya Pradesh.

“The central observers will chair a meeting of party MLAs on Monday,” MP BJP media cell chief Ashish Agrawal told PTI on Saturday. The schedule of the meeting will be shared with the media once it is ready, he added.

Party sources said the meeting is likely to start between 5pm and 7pm on Monday.

The meeting was earlier scheduled to take place on Sunday but was postponed until Monday due to the busy schedule of observers, they said.

The observers are likely to arrive in Madhya Pradesh on Sunday evening or Monday morning, the sources said.

This is the third time in the last 19 years that the BJP has sent central observers to Madhya Pradesh.

In August 2004, when Uma Bharti resigned as chief minister, the party's senior leaders Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley were sent to the state as central observers. In November 2005, when Babulal Gaur resigned from the top post in the state, Rajnath Singh was sent as a central observer to help lawmakers choose the new chief minister. At that time, Shivraj Singh Chouhan was elected leader of the Legislative Party.

This time, the saffron party contested the Assembly elections without projecting incumbent Prime Minister Chouhan as CM face. It was after twenty years that the party had not named its prime ministerial candidate before the parliamentary elections. According to party insiders, the BJP could target another Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader if he replaces Chouhan, the BJP's longest-serving Prime Minister in India, on a 15-month break. He is also the longest serving chief minister of MP. In such a situation, Prahlad Patel, a Lodhi who has been elected from Narsinghpur Assembly seat and resigned as Union minister, could emerge as the front-runner for the CM position. Lodhis are part of the OBC community.

The BJP leadership has been choosing OBC leaders for the top post in the state since 2003 when it projected Uma Bharti, a Lodhi. A year later, the party placed its bet on another OBC, Babulal Gaur, and finally on Chouhan in 2004, given that the number of OBCs in Parliament was over 48 percent. Meanwhile, Prahlad Patel was here on Friday and visited the state Assembly complex and CM Chouhan.

The name of Narendra Tomar, who was picked from Dimani and has since resigned as Union minister, was doing the rounds for the CM's post. According to party insiders, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and BJP state chief VD Sharma are among other potential candidates. All the four big guns – Patel, Tomar, Vijayvargiya and Sharma – have already met Union Home Minister and BJP's master strategist Amit Shah in New Delhi. They also appealed to party chairman JP Nadda. These leaders have publicly denied that they are vying to be the CM.

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