The BJP on Wednesday restructured its Parliamentary Board, the party’s apex decision-making body, and the Central Election Committee (CEC) after eight years, dropping Union minister Nitin Gadkari and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The party included six new faces in the 11-member Parliamentary Board, among them former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa and former IPS officer Iqbal Singh Lalpura, the first Sikh leader to become a member of the BJP’s apex body. Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Other Backward Classes (OBC) Morcha chief K Laxman, former MP Sudha Yadav, and former Union Minister Satyanarayan Jatiya are the other new members of the board. All 11 members of the Parliamentary Board are also part of the election committee, which has some additional members.
“The constitution of the team is significant as it shows that the party leadership is in full preparation mode for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” said a party functionary.
The move to drop Gadkari from the two decision-making bodies comes amid the Opposition’s attempts to project some of his recent public remarks as a commentary on the functioning of the BJP leadership.
At a function in Nagpur last month, the Union minister said, “Politics has been a part of the social movement since the time of Mahatma Gandhi. Later, its focus shifted towards the goal of nation-building and development. What we are seeing today is 100 per cent only about staying in power. Politics is a true means of social and economic reform and therefore today’s politicians should work for the development of education, arts etc in the society.”
This led Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh to ask, “First Rajnath Singh, and now Nitin Gadkari, has said his ‘Mann Ki Baat’. Is this an indication of climate change?”
According to a senior BJP leader, the new team illustrates the increasing consolidation of power at the top of the party. “In the earlier team, constituted in 2014, there were leaders such as Sushma Swaraj and Chouhan who had questioned the top leadership’s decisions when they wanted. It is true that no one has questioned the top leadership’s decision, but the old team has leaders who can or have the stature to raise questions,” the party functionary said.
Although leaders such as Yediyurappa and Jatiya — who was part of the board once earlier, beginning in 2006 — had seniority and experience, both were unlikely to be critical, he added.
The new members included in the CEC are Union Minister Bhupendra Yadav, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, former MP Om Mathur, and its women’s wing chief Vanathi Srinivasan. Former Union Ministers Shahnawaz Hussain and Jual Oram have been dropped from the party’s election panel.
BJP leaders said the Parliamentary Board was now more socially and regionally representative. While Lalpura is the first Sikh to be included in the apex body, Jatiya represents the Scheduled Caste community, Laxman belongs to the OBC community, and Sonowal hails from a tribal community in Assam. “This is the first time when the northeast gets representation in the top body of the party. Given the spread and deep influence the BJP has gained in the last few years, it is quite natural,” said a party office-bearer.
Yediyurappa’s entry into the Parliamentary Board and the CEC is a clear signal that the BJP wants to cash in on his popularity and acceptance in Karnataka to retain its hold over the Lingayat support base ahead of the state Assembly elections next year. Many in the BJP see Fadnavis’ inclusion in the CEC as an indication of the top leadership’s plan to bring him to the national level.
From the Parliamentary Board that Amit Shah constituted on August 26, 2014 — at the time, he was the party president — the only members in the reorganised panel are PM Modi, Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and party national president J P Nadda. B L Santhosh joined the board after he was appointed the party’s general secretary (organisation).
The team Shah set up also had leaders such as the late Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar; former Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu; and current Karnataka Governor Thawarchand Gehlot, besides Gadkari and Chouhan.
Analysing the rejig, a BJP source said that while the party had been emphasising the principle of inclusivity for a while, the new entrants illustrate the leadership’s keenness to pick leaders from the ground level.
“The new Parliamentary Board constituted by the party shows how the BJP rewards old workers and values the experience of its karyakartas. People such as Yediyurappa, Jatiya, and Laxman have given lifelong services to build the party brick by brick. Their entry into the highest decision-making body offers a glimpse into how the BJP values its esteemed karyakartas,” the party said in an informal note.
Speaking of Sudha Yadav’s inclusion, the BJP said, “Sudha Yadav is a self-made political leader and a widow of a Kargil martyr. Her inclusion shows the party’s way of honouring women and families of the armed forces.” Yadav was elected to the Lok Sabha from Mahendragarh in Haryana in 1999, but she lost in the 2004 and 2009 general elections.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) took a dig at the BJP over Gadkari’s ouster from the Parliamentary Board, saying the party removed him due to his rising stature as an “astute politician”. NCP spokesperson Clyde Crasto said on Twitter, “When your calibre and capabilities grow and you pose a challenge to the higher-ups the BJP downsizes you. The tainted get upgraded…”