With uncertainty prevailing over Pushkar Singh Dhami's return to the chief minister’s post following his defeat in the Uttarakhand Assembly polls, speculation begun once again in the media here about who might replace him.
At least half a dozen names have begun doing the rounds as Dhami's likely replacement, including Chaubattakhal MLA Satpal Maharaj, Srinagar Garhwal MLA Dhan Singh Rawat, former chief minister Triveda Singh Rawat, who did not contest the polls this time, and Didihat legislator Bishan Singh Chufal.
However, Trivendra Singh Rawat categorically ruled himself out of the race, telling reporters here on Friday that had he been in the race, he would have contested the polls, instead of staying out of the fray.
Names of former Union minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Union Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt and Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni are also afloat.
Several names invariably become a butt of media speculation in Uttarakhand whenever the prospect of a change of guard emerges in the state.
They were projected as probable choices for the top office when Trivendra Singh Rawat was replaced by Tirath Singh Rawat and again when the latter was replaced by Dhami.
However, on both occasions, the BJP sprang a surprise by choosing someone who was out of the range of media speculation.
The BJP has made no attempt to scotch such speculations saying that the winning MLAs will sit together and elect a leader who will become the CM.
"We haven't received any instructions from the central party leadership so far about government formation. We will do what we are told to do," said state BJP president Madan Kaushik, who retained his Haridwar seat.
About Dhami, he said he may have lost his seat but he has won hearts.
Union minister Pralhad Joshi also attributed the party's win in Uttarakhand to Dhami's young and dynamic leadership.
However, a section of BJP leaders here are of the view that the assembly polls were contested in the name of Dhami.
So, the party should continue with Dhami, instead of going for yet another face, they say.
Soon after the poll results were out on March 10, Champawat MLA Kailash Gehtori said he was ready to vacate his seat for Dhami because if he is made the chief minister, he would be required to win from a seat.
Brij Bhushan Gairola, who has won from Doiwala, has offered to vacate his seat for Trivendra Singh Rawat, his political mentor, who played key role in getting him a ticket.
Dhami's defeat from Khatima, a seat he had been winning since 2012, was the most notable on a day that saw the BJP win 47 out of 70 assembly seats in the state.