With BJP president Rajnath Singh having joined the government along with a number of party vice-presidents and general secretaries, the party is expected to go through an organisational rejig. A look at three leaders whose names are being talked about as possible contenders for the BJP chief’s post:
O P MATHUR, 62, is the only whole-time RSS pracharak among the three and senior to the other two, having served as a BJP national general secretary during 2005-08 — J P Nadda became one in 2010, and Amit Shah in 2013.
Mathur, a former Rajasthan BJP chief, has helped swing election results in various states where he has held key positions. It was at the beginning of his 12-year stint (1990-2002) as BJP general secretary (organisation) for the Rajasthan BJP unit that the party formed its first government in that state — in alliance with the Janata Dal. Significantly, Rajasthan was the only state that the BJP retained among five — those lost being Himachal Pradesh, MP, UP and Delhi — which were dismissed and saw fresh elections following the demolition of the Babri masjid in 1992.
In 2002, Mathur was given a national role and put in charge of MP, where the Congress was in power. The BJP wrested MP backand has held on since. Mathur was also put in charge of Uttarakhand and Gujarat and was involved in Narendra Modi’s re-election effort of 2007. Their association is said to go back to their RSS days in the 1980s, when Mathur was working for the Kisan Sangh (1979-89).
The one blot on Mathur’s organisational career, party leaders point out, is the BJP’s defeat in Rajasthan in 2008 when he was state unit chief. Some party leaders attribute this to a tussle between the party organisation and Vasundhara Raje as chief minister.
After taking over as party president last year, Rajnath once again entrusted Mathur with Gujarat, where the party went on to sweep the Lok Sabha elections.
Man who delivered IN UP
AMIT SHAH, 50, demonstrated his organisational and election management skills at the national level in Uttar Pradesh. He boasts one of the longest associations — over 30 years — with Narendra Modi. “After the BJP’s impressive tally in Uttar Pradesh, he is the new rock star in the party,” said a senior BJP leader.
At the time Rajnath put Shah in charge, the party had been relegated to the fringes in Uttar Pradesh. Shah set up a deep booth-level network across over one lakh polling booths in less than a year to revive the BJP fortunes in the state. The decimation of the BSP and the SP established his organisational credentials at the national level, making him one of the front-ranking contenders for the BJP top post.
Alongside ensuring the BJP’s victory, Shah also picked up the skills of managing party politics at national level by acting as a go-between for Modi, Rajnath and the RSS leadership, sitting at Jhandewalan in Delhi and helping the three crucial pillars strike understandings for the post-poll scenario.
However, his Gujarati background, party leaders admit, could come in his way — the leadership could be reluctant about having the prime minister and the party president from the same state. At the same time, his backers point out that Modi’s decision to represent Varanasi of UP in the Lok Sabha will present the party a way of getting around that obstacle.
J P NADDA, 53, a low-profile BJP general secretary, worked on the election campaign from behind the scenes, as in-charge of party headquarters. While in charge of the party’s Chhattisgarh unit, he worked closely with RSS leader and joint general secretary Saudan Singh to snatch victory in an uncertain assembly poll last year.
Hailing from Himachal Pradesh, Mathur was brought up in Patna where his father was a professor. He joined the JP movement and cut his teeth in student politics at Patna University through the RSS’s Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. Later shifted to his home state of Himachal Pradesh, Nadda rose through the ranks and eventually became a national secretary and an organising secretary of the ABVP (Delhi) in the late 1980s. “He worked in the ABVP like a whole-timer,” said a party leader.
Mathur shifted to the BJP’s youth wing and was elected national president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha for 1991-94. He served three terms in the Himachal assembly and was twice a minister — first for health and then for environment — before getting elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2012. In 2010, Mathur had been made a national general secretary by Nitin Gadkari; Rajnath later retained him.
Amid the expectations of a leadership change in the BJP, he is seen as a choice no top leader could object to because of his silent working style.