The BJP on Saturday appointed West Champaran MP and chief whip of the party in Lok Sabha Sanjay Jaiswal as its new Bihar unit president, and Satish Poonia as the president of the party’s Rajasthan unit.
By appointing leaders who have the prospects of taking everyone along without being part of any camp as heads of two key states, BJP chief Amit Shah seems to have sent a strong message — that he wants the state units to work in harmony.
With Jaiswal’s appointment in Bihar, the BJP seems to have gone back to catering to its core constituency of OBC Baniyas, constituting about 12 per cent of the state’s population. Although the party already has an OBC Baniya face in Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, it appeared to be looking for a younger face for the organisation ahead of Assembly polls scheduled late next year.
By naming Jaiswal, considered a moderate who has avoided controversies, the BJP leadership has indicated that it wants to have smooth coordination with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) in Bihar.
A vocal section of the state BJP has often targeted Nitish, who has at times taken a stand opposite to that of the saffron party on several issues, including scrapping of special status to Jammu and Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Bill, underlining the unease in their alliance. Jaiswal’s appointment comes months after former state chief Nityanand Rai was made a Union minister.
Jaiswal, a medical doctor, told The Indian Express, “My first priority is to further strengthen the party at the booth level. We aim to get 200 additional members at each booth. Once we achieve that, we will achieve the broad purpose.”
Bihar Deputy CM Modi said, “Under Jaiswal’s leadership, we will win the 2020 elections.”
A Bihar BJP leader said, “Being a doctor has helped him in furthering his political constituency and reach out to people. He has a very good connect with people since he attends all social functions in his constituency.”
If Jaiswal is considered an ideological moderate, new Rajasthan BJP chief Poonia belongs to the Sangh Parivar cadre. He began his political career as a student leader in the ABVP, came up through the ranks and was part of the Yuva Morcha, and is now the MLA from Amber constituency of Jaipur district.
In the faction-ridden Rajasthan unit, Poonia is considered to be part of no camp, which, party leaders said, seemed to have gone in his favour. A seasoned organisation man, he has been appointed chief of Rajasthan BJP after the death of state party chief Madan Lal Saini in June.
Poonia on Saturday said, “After working for nearly 40 years, I have realised that if there’s any party which honours its workers, it is the BJP. This (appointment) is a felicitation of workers from all around Rajasthan,” Poonia said.
BJP insiders say Poonia’s appointment is also aimed at wooing the Jat community more towards the BJP — in Rajasthan, Rajputs are considered traditional BJP voters, and Jats as traditional Congress supporters.
(With Santosh Singh in Patna and Deep Mukherjee in Jaipur)