The elevation of Punjab BJP general secretary Tarun Chugh to the national working committee has left many senior BJP leaders sulking as they feel ‘ignored’.
Chugh (42) is an RSS-ABVP product and has been active in the RSS since his student days in Amritsar. According to sources in the party, his apparent new-found closeness to Arun Jaitley seems to have translated into the elevation. He also worked in the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections, which is when he is said to have come closer to Amit Shah.
A host of ‘seniors’ such as Laxmi Kanta Chawla, who was inducted as BJP national vice-president in Rajnath Singh’s team last year, former cabinet minister Tikshan Soon, Manoranjan Kalia, MLA Ashwani Kumar and senior BJP leader from Pathankot Samrendra Sharma were overlooked with Chugh being appointed as secretary by Amit Shah.
A senior party leader said on conditions of anonymity that Chugh had only been active in Amritsar and that if the central BJP command had to choose a RSS man there were others who had been with the sangh for over 30 years “Samrendra Sharma went to jail in 1977 as an active member of the sangh. For us RSS meant sacrifices. There are others who made numerous sacrifices. Now when the time has come to repay them, the party did not even consult senior leaders,” he said.
Chugh started his career with the RSS and served as ghat nayak, mukhay shikshak and karyavah in the Vidyarthi Shiksha college. He entered mainstream politics in 1994 through the ABVP as its Amritsar district secretary and state executive member in 1989. He went on to become the state president of the BJYM and its national executive member in 1998.
However, he suffered a humiliating defeat in the 2012 Assembly polls in Amritsar after losing to O P Soni of the Congress by a margin of 12,797 votes.
With only Chugh making it to Amit Shah’s team from Punjab, state BJP leaders seem to be losing importance on the national scene. Rajnath Singh’s team last year had MP Vinod Khanna in the National Executive Committee, two national vice-presidents from Amritsar and three permanent invitees from Punjab.
“Rajya Sabha MP Avinash Rai Khanna was also expected to be taken into the national team from Punjab, at a level senior than Chugh’s. But since he has been made the party’s whip in the Rajya Sabha, he has not been included. But we are still expecting more leaders from Punjab to be made office bearers at the national level,” added another BJP leader.
In 2013, Chugh was appointed as BJP state general secretary, a post which he will have to give up now. He was also the zonal Parbhari (convener) for Doaba region and was appointed as BJP coordinator for election rallies in Punjab. He has also worked as election incharge in Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.