"I am ready to take the responsibility of the Chief Minister's post if the BJP projects me," the BJP's Rajya Sabha member said. Ananth Kumar, who is in charge of the Bharatiya Janata Party's affairs in Bihar, on June 16 announced the party will not announce its Chief Ministerial candidate for the assembly elections - slated for September-October - and instead fight the electoral battle in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Sunday, BJP ally Rashtriya Lok Samata Party passed a resolution to demand that its party chief and Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha be made the NDA's Chief Ministerial candidate in the state.

In his early 80s, Thakur belongs to the powerful landed upper caste Bhumihar, who are said to be overwhelmingly backing the BJP in post-Mandal politics in the state. Speculation in political circles here is that the BJP may change its earlier stand of not announcing its Chief Ministerial candidate.

"The BJP is likely to announce the name of former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi as the Chief Ministerial candidate soon," a BJP leader close to Sushil Modi said. Sushil Kumar Modi, who is from a backward caste, is the most influential face of the BJP in Bihar and commands respect even among the upper castes, say some leaders.

However, the former Bihar deputy chief minister's disadvantage lies in the fact that two BJP leaders from the backward caste are dead set against him. Since last year, a powerful group of upper caste leaders in the BJP has been opposing the projection of Sushil Modi as the CM face.

According to BJP insiders, Thakur's statement is a reflection of a deep-rooted tussle between leaders of upper castes and other backward castes (OBCs) within the party.

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