The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday announced party president Amit Shah’s new team of office bearers. The selection seemed to have a generational shift, with many senior leaders being dropped and some recent imports from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) getting key positions.
The existing team had to be recast as many from the old team are now part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers. Former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yedyurappa, who had returned to the BJP fold barely weeks before the Lok Sabha elections, was appointed one of the 11 vice-presidents.
The big surprise, however, was non-inclusion of Varun Gandhi. Sources said the decision was consistent with not giving important ministries or party posts to those whose parents were ministers. Earlier this month, Union Women & Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had publicly batted for her 34-year-old son, Varun, as BJP’s possible chief ministerial candidate for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls in 2017.
Sources said Maneka Gandhi’s comments were only the last straw; Varun had made his case extremely weak after he “misbehaved” at Modi’s Parade Ground rally in Kolkata on February 5. Varun, according to sources, did not garland Modi and later openly disputed the state BJP leadership’s claims that 200,000 people attended the rally. Varun told the media the rally was “okay”, with 45,000-50,000 attending it. Also, his election posters in his Lok Sabha constituency of Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, did not feature Modi.
Others dropped from the list are vice-presidents Balbir Punj, S S Ahluwalia, C P Thakur, Kalyan Singh and Laxmi Kanta Chawla. Former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh has been requested to take up the post of Rajasthan Governor. Punj (64) and Ahluwalia (63), said to be close to L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj, did not fit in the scheme of things of Amit Shah (pictured), the new party president. Neither did Thakur and Chawla.
J P Nadda, who has been retained as a general secretary, said 50 per cent of the new young team was below 50 and 80 per cent under 60 years of age. Yedyurappa (71) is the oldest member.
General Secretary (organisation) Ram Lal, responsible for coordination with RSS, has been retained as have been P Muralidhar Rao and Rajiv Pratap Rudy. The new team also includes Ram Madhav, until recently with RSS, as a general secretary. New general secretaries, apart from Madhav, are outgoing BJP Mahila Morcha chief Saroj Pandey, Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan Bhupendra Yadav and Ram Shankar Katheriya.
In the list of joint general secretaries responsible for organisational work, V Sathish and Saudan Singh, both close to RSS, have been retained. Shiv Prakash, who recently joined BJP from RSS, and B L Santosh, have also been made joint general secretaries (organisation).
The BJP parliamentary board had selected Shah as the party president on July 9. The National Council of the party had approved the decision on August 9. With 11 vice-presidents, eight general secretaries, 14 secretaries and 10 spokespersons, the team announced on Saturday has tried to induct several from the poll-bound states of Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana, and the key swing state of UP.
Among the vice-presidents, apart from Yeddyurappa, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has been retained, while Bandaru Dattatreya and Satyapal Malik have been included. Both are Lok Sabha MPs. Other inclusions in the vice-presidents’ list are of Purshottam Rupala from Gujarat, Prabhat Jha from Madhya Pradesh, former Jharkhand deputy chief minister Raghuvar Das, former MP from Rajasthan Kiran Maheshwari, BJP think-tank member Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Bihar’s Renu Devi and Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma.
According to a BJP press statement, the 47-member team has five office bearers from other backward castes (OBCs), six women, two from scheduled castes and one from scheduled tribes.
The party’s media cell chief Shrikant Sharma is among 14 secretaries. Other party secretaries include late Pramod Mahajan’s daughter Poonam Mahajan, Shyam Jaju, Ramesh Deka, Sudha Yadav and Arun Singh.
Anurag Thakur, son of former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, was retained as BJP Yuva Morcha chief but not included – as was expected by some – as one of the eight general secretaries. Vijaya Rahatkar replaced Saroj Pandey as the Mahila Morcha chief, while Faggan Singh Kulaste will head the ST Morcha.
The 10-member list of spokespersons retains M J Akbar, Shanawaz Hussain, Sudhanshu Trivedi, Meenakshi Lekhi and Vijay Sonkar Shastri. Those added as spokespersons are Nalin Kohli, Sambit Patra, Anil Baluni, G V L Narasimha Rao and Lalitha Kumaramangalam.
The party also appointed four new state unit presidents – Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh), Dharampal Kaushik (Chhattisgarh), Tamilisai Soundararajan (Tamil Nadu) and Siddharth Bhattacharya (Assam).
NEW CAPTAIN NEW TEAM
Key names in and out of BJP President Amit Shah’s new team
B S Yeddyurappa
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi
GENERAL SECRETARIES (8)
J P Nadda
Rajeev Pratap Rudy
P Muralidhar Rao
Siddharth Nath Singh
M J Akbar
Varun Gandhi (was general secretary)
S S Ahluwalia (was vice-president)
C P Thakur (was vice- president)
Kalyan Singh (was vice-president)
Balbir Punj (was vice-president)
In brackets: Total number of posts
Source: BJP website