The transition in the BJP is now official: party veterans L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee are no longer part of its highest decisionmaking body.
On Tuesday, the BJP announced that the trio that has occupied the top rung of its leadership since the formation of the party in 1980, had been dropped from its Parliamentary Board.
However, in an apparent attempt to placate the veterans and fend off accusations of treating the party old guard shabbily, BJP president Amit Shah has formed a new committee, the Margdarshak Mandal or group of mentors.
This five-member panel has Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and the three veterans on it. The role of the panel — which is not mentioned in the party constitution — is, however, not yet clear. A senior BJP leader said it would have advisory status, with no decisionmaking powers.
Vajpayee has been unwell, and not been active in politics for several years. Advani, a former party president, fell out of favour with the new leadership after trying unsuccessfully to stall Modi’s rise by opposing the move to declare him its prime ministerial candidate.
Joshi, also a former BJP president, has never hidden his disapproval of Modi’s leadership style.
The BJP’s spectacular victory in the April-May elections greatly diminished Advani’s relevance in the party. Signals of his slide were strong and frequent: he was denied the post of Speaker, not allowed to occupy the seat next to the Prime Minister in the Lok Sabha, and his nameplate was removed from his office in Parliament House.
But party leaders said both Advani and Joshi had been consulted before the new Parliamentary Board was set up.
“They will show the way,” spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said. He declined to comment on who would chair the Margdarshak Mandal, or on the role it would play.
The age of Advani and Joshi has been cited as the reason for keeping them out. Advani is 86; Joshi 80. Modi did not induct anyone over 75 while choosing his council of ministers.
However, youth alone is clearly not what Amit Shah is looking for. Varun Gandhi, 34, was shown the door when Shah reconstituted his team earlier this month. Party leaders said he had been punished for showing a tendency to act independently.
Shah has inducted three-time Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and party general secretary J P Nadda as new members in the 12-member Parliamentary Board. The induction of Chouhan, and the retention of Ananth Kumar, both of whom are considered close to Advani, happened on the recommendation of the party patriarch, a BJP leader said.
The Parliamentary Board chaired by Shah now has Modi, Rajnath, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, M Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari, Ananth Kumar, Thawarchand Gehlot, Chouhan, Nadda and Ramlal as its members.
Shah has also reshuffled the Central Election Committee, from which he has dropped the senior leader from Uttar Pradesh, Vinay Katiyar. The CEC has the 12 members of the Parliamentary Board, besides the BJP Mahila Morcha president Vijaya Rahatkar, tribal leader Jual Oram, and Shahnawaz Hussain.