Divide in BJP poll panel: Jaitley upset with chief Rajnath pushing his own

Barely days after the BJD walked out of its alliance,infighting in the BJP top brass became public when general secretary and chief election...

Written by Suman K Jha | New Delhi | Published:March 14, 2009 1:01 am

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 party’s 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 party’s PM-candidate L K Advani that “he would discharge all his responsibilities as party’s 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 Advani’s 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 Advani’s 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 party’s 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 BJP’s 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 he’s 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 party’s 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. Mittal’s 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 party’s announcement with the AGP was made public. Mittal earlier worked for the party’s alliance with the AGP in Assam.

Rajnath Singh was not willing to answer any questions on Jaitley’s absence. His supporters,however,argued that every appointment in the party “could not be taken as per Jaitley’s wishes.” They also raised the timing of Jaitley’s defiance “when elections are just a few weeks away”.

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