Narendra Modi takes centre stage with aide Shah,Rajnath has his say

Narendra Modi has been unveiled today as BJP mascot and flag-bearer heading into 2014 polls.

Written by Ravish Tiwari | New Delhi | Published: March 31, 2013 10:21 pm

With an eye on a clutch of Assembly polls this year and the general elections ahead,BJP president Rajnath Singh inducted Narendra Modi into the party’s apex decision-making bodies parliamentary board and central election committee on Sunday,marking the Gujarat Chief Minister’s gradual ascendancy in the BJP.

Singh also inducted Modi’s key political confidant Amit Shah along with Rajiv Pratap Rudy,Varun Gandhi and Murlidhar 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 the district jail is pending).

Modi will now share stage at the centre with 11 old 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 BJP’s national affairs, including the choice of its prime ministerial candidate for the next elections.

Indicating that the BJP is keeping options on projecting Modi as campaign committee chief or PM candidate open,a senior party office-bearer said on his future: “Things happen gradually.”

While Modi’s induction was a foregone conclusion after his third consecutive Assembly election victory in Gujarat in December,the bid by a section of the party leaders to push Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s 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 Shah’s inclusion,hinting that charges against him could be political vendetta. “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 and 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 standards — a reason over which he dug his heels against former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s role in party affairs in the state.

Shah,however,wasn’t the only Modi backer to gain from Sunday’s 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,Shah’s 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,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 women’s wing.

Nadda is the lone general secretary who is not a member of the parliamentary board but part of the central election committee.

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 Modi’s 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 Singh’s political advisor and key political aide Sudhanshu Trivedi,Meenakshi Lekhi,Capt Abhimanyu and Vijay Sonkar.

The BJP’s five-member disciplinary committee will be headed by Radha Mohan Singh,a Rajnath loyalist.

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