Amit Shah will continue as the party’s national president, it decided.
“The BJP Parliamentary Board met today and selected J P Nadda as the working president. He will remain the working president until the BJP’s membership drive and organisational elections are over,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said after a meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Board, attended by both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Singh said Shah, under whom the party has won several elections, himself said that the responsibility of party president should be given to someone else, as his attention will be on fulfilling his responsibility as Home Minister.
Singh told the media, “The Parliamentary Board also wanted Amit-ji (Shah) to handle the responsibility. But he was of the view that he would not be able to do justice to the responsibility, so the board decided to make Nadda-ji the working president.”
Why Nadda is a natural choice
The nomination of J P Nadda, 58, is seen as a “natural choice” to the post, and many in BJP see him as Amit Shah’s successor who is likely to take over the reins of the party after the ongoing party organisation election is over. Nadda is seen as close to both the Prime Minister and Amit Shah, and also the RSS.
A BJP leader said, “Nadda-ji is not only close to both the Prime Minister and Amit Shah, but is also close to the RSS. In fact, he was one of the contenders acceptable to the RSS for the post of party president in 2014. Now the circle is complete.”
Nadda had played a constructive role in the BJP’s victory in 2014 General Election and had become a member of Modi’s Cabinet in his first term – he held the Health and Family Affairs portfolio.
According to sources in the party, appointment of a working president is significant given that the party is gearing up for Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana to retain power. “The internal election process will be on auto pilot, but there are so many day-to-day issues as the party faces the Assembly polls,” a BJP leader said. “His (Nadda’s) organisation experience, right from the ABVP (the RSS’s students’ wing) will help him handle the nitty-gritty of the preparations.”
Nadda is the BJP’s first working president who will lead the party during internal elections as well as Assembly polls to three states. He was secretary of the BJP Parliamentary Board.
He is married to Mallika Nadda, who teaches history at Himachal Pradesh University. Mallika, daughter of former Madhya Pradesh minister and Jana Sangh leader Jayashree Banerjee, was also active in ABVP and was its general secretary from 1988 to 1999.
Nadda’s name was projected as one of the possible faces for the post of Himachal Pradesh chief minister after the party won the Vidhan Sabha elections in 2017.
Speculation was rife that he could lead the BJP when he was kept away from Modi’s new Cabinet. Both Shah and Modi had given him the charge of Uttar Pradesh, where the party had feared that the SP-BSP-RLD alliance could damage its prospects. The party eventually won 62 of 80 seats in the politically crucial state.
Having been a part of the ABVP from his student days at Patna University, Nadda rose through the student outfit’s ranks in Himachal Pradesh in early 1980s – he was studying Law at the time. He went on to become the national general secretary of ABVP between 1985 and 1989 and later joined the BJP’s youth wing – the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Manch. He was the BJYM national president in 1991-93.
In 1993, he was elected an MLA in Himachal Pradesh and became the BJP’s legislative party leader the following year. In 1998, he was appointed the state Health minister; he handled the Environment portfolio in the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led BJP government in 2007.
Nadda quit as a state minister in 2010 and became a party general secretary.
Elected to Rajya Sabha in 2012, Nadda worked under both Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari as party presidents.
A low-profile leader, Nadda is known for his “silent” work and has delivered in whatever role he had been assigned. Before the UP challenge this year, he had worked closely with RSS leader and joint-general secretary Saudan Singh to snatch victory out of what had appeared a defeat in Chhattisgarh in 2013.