With an eye on the Assembly polls this year and the general elections ahead,BJP president Rajnath Singh on Sunday inducted Narendra Modi into the partys apex decision-making bodies,parliamentary board and central election committee,marking the gradual ascent of the Gujarat Chief Minister in the BJP.
Singh also inducted Modis key political confidant Amit Shah as well as Rajiv Pratap Rudy,Varun Gandhi and Muralidhar Rao as general secretaries,to handle organisational affairs,along with six old faces. While Gujarat leader Shah is facing charges of criminal conspiracy in the Sohrabuddin encounter case,Varun was only cleared recently in hate speech cases filed against him in 2009 (another case,of violence outside a district jail,is pending).
Modi will now share stage at the centre with 11 previous members Rajnath Singh,Atal Bihari Vajpayee,L K Advani,Murli Manohar Joshi,Venkaiah Naidu,Nitin Gadkari,Sushma Swaraj,Arun Jaitley,Ananth Kumar,Thawar Chand Gehlot and Ramlal in steering the BJPs national affairs, including the choice of its prime ministerial candidate for the next elections.
Indicating that the BJP is keeping options open on future role for Modi,a senior party office-bearer said: Things happen gradually.
While the Gujarat CMs induction was a foregone conclusion after his third consecutive Assembly election victory,a bid by a section of the party leaders to push Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhans case failed.
However,the BJP ensured that no one else in a position to challenge Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh in an election year was upgraded. Consequently,former state unit chief Prabhat Jha and former state chief minister Uma Bharti were anointed party vice-presidents in a token high position with little organisational influence.
Playing down the setback to Chouhan,a party leader said: There was only one position vacant at the high table. Technically speaking,Modi is senior as compared to Chouhan and (Chhattisgarh CM) Raman Singh,and given the clamour for him within the cadre,it makes political sense to bring him to the national stage. It is not going to create heartburn anywhere.
Another senior leader defended Modi aide Shahs inclusion,hinting that charges against him could be motivated. Shah is not facing direct charges of murder,looting or moral turpitude. He has been framed in a conspiracy that can be levelled against anyone if the government engages in political vendetta, the leader said.
Party sources called Shah a useful organisational asset and said any possible attacks by the Congress on him could be leveraged to polarise the electorate. Since Shah is not a public face outside his state,it will be construed as an attack on Modi. It is for our rivals to see if they can afford it when the clamour for Modi is rising across the country, reasoned a BJP leader.
Incidentally,Advani had recently publicly lectured the party leadership to ensure that the BJP remained a party with a difference with zero tolerance towards deviations from its standards a reason over which he dug his heels against former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa.
Shah,however,wasnt the only Modi backer to gain from Sundays exercise. Balbir Punj,C P Thakur and Smriti Irani are among the 13 new vice-presidents the party has now.
On the other hand,eight of the old vice-presidents Kalraj Mishra,Shanta Kumar,Vinay Katiyar,Bhagat Singh Koshiyari,Najma Heptullah,Hema Malini,Purushottam Rupala and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank have been divested of organisational responsibilities. Katiyar is the lone gainer as be becomes a member of the crucial central election committee. Only Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Bijoya Chakravarty retain their vice-president positions. Former Karnataka CM Sadananda Gowda is also among the new inductees.
The day-to-day organisational affairs will be looked after by the team of general secretaries. While six of them Ananth Kumar,Thawarchand Gehlot,Ramlal,J P Nadda,Dharmendra Pradhan and Tapir Gao are old members,of the new ones,Shahs loyalty to Modi is well known while Rudy and Varun are considered Rajnath men. Murlidhar Rao is an RSS loan to the party.
While all the 12 parliamentary board members are part of the BJP central election committee,six of the general secretaries have been left out of it. Those included are Jual Oran and Vinay Katiyar (considered rivals of Pradhan and Varun). Others included are former BJP Delhi unit chief Harsh Vardhan,Gopinath Munde,Shahnawaz Hussain and Saroj Pandey of Chhattisgarh,who is the new chief of the BJP womens wing.
Nadda is the lone general secretary who is not a member of the parliamentary board but part of the central election committee.
While there were no loud public murmurs against Rajnaths new team,Katiyar appeared to express his disappointment at missing out on a larger role by taking a dig at Varun. The Gandhi name commands respect in the Congress as well as the BJP. Of course,they will reap benefits, Katiyar reportedly said,even while calling the new team balanced.
Senior party leader Yashwant Sinha,who had publicly opposed a second term to Nitin Gadkari,said he was happy despite missing out on a central role. In a party like the BJP,it is more important to be a party worker than hold a post. I am happy being a party worker and also an MP. I have a lot of responsibility towards my party and constituency, he said in Ranchi,according to reports.
Party sources said Rajnath was conscious of Sundays exercise stoking simmering tensions and was keeping a watch. In fact,last-minute factional rivalry delayed the anouncement of the new team on Saturday.
Also,as part of the new set-up,Rajnath Singh retained Anurag Thakur as president of the youth wing,while loyalist Sanjay Paswan will head the Scheduled Caste wing of the party.
Consequently,while the parliamentary board has remained unchanged except Modis induction,Rajnath Singh has brought in 32 new faces in the 51 organisational posts,with 10 new faces among vice-presidents (out of of 13),four new faces among general secretaries (out of 10),11 new secretaries (out of 15),four new spokespersons (out of 7),and three new presidents for its frontal organisations (out of 6).
The new spokespersons include Singhs political advisor and key political aide Sudhanshu Trivedi,Meenakshi Lekhi,Capt Abhimanyu and Vijay Sonkar.
The BJPs five-member disciplinary committee will be headed by Radha Mohan Singh,a Rajnath loyalist.