Barely days after the BJD walked out of its alliance,infighting in the BJP top brass became public when general secretary and chief election strategist Arun Jaitley stayed away from the partys central election committee (CEC) meetings here today that decided on 61 new nominees,triggering off speculation of a fresh confrontation between him and party president Rajnath Singh.
Coming as this does just weeks before polls,Jaitley is said to be deeply disappointed with some of the names who have shot into prominence either in the organisation or as party nominees for the elections owing their allegiance to Singh.
Jaitley,however,told partys PM-candidate L K Advani that he would discharge all his responsibilities as partys chief election campaign strategist to the best of his abilities.
In fact,Jaitely skipped the CEC meeting but held talks with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to fine-tune seat-sharing; met him again at Advanis residence for lunch; chaired a meeting of Uttar Pradesh leaders at the residence of Kalraj Mishra around 4.30 pm; a couple of meetings at 26 Tughlak Crescent around 6 pm,followed by another meeting at Advanis residence to finalise the seven Delhi seats. This was also attended by Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj.
While Jaitley declined to comment on his absence from the partys CEC it was raised at the meeting by leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj sources close to him said he wanted a larger debate on a new sub-culture being promoted in the party that does no credit to the BJPs brand equity.
Attempts are being to field Lal Singh Tomar,having scores of criminal cases against him,including some for attacking BJP workers,from Akbarpur in UP,only because hes a Thakur. In the 2004 elections,the BJP had come out with a chargesheet against him,who was then in the Samajwadi Party, said a BJP leader requesting anonymity.
He added that the partys decision to appoint Sudhanshu Mittal as the sah prabhari for the North-East showed that the BJP was losing sight of its moorings. Both are said to be close to Rajnath Singh. Mittal,who owns Delhi Tents & Decorators,was an aide of late Pramod Mahajan and has been trying to get back into the BJP mainstream. Mittals detractors describe him as a wheeler-dealer and this is the reason why Jaitley is believed to be upset over his inclusion. Rajnath Singh,however,formally introduced Mittal at the BJP headquarters recently when the partys announcement with the AGP was made public. Mittal earlier worked for the partys alliance with the AGP in Assam.
Rajnath Singh was not willing to answer any questions on Jaitleys absence. His supporters,however,argued that every appointment in the party could not be taken as per Jaitleys wishes. They also raised the timing of Jaitleys defiance when elections are just a few weeks away.