Seemingly, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah dispensed with lineage and experience to pick his new team of office-bearers. But that is only partially true. Shah picked and dropped leaders from his team as much for their loyalty not just to the party’s ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) but to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as for electoral reasons.
Varun Gandhi, 34, was unceremoniously shown the door as general secretary despite being young. People in the know say Varun’s loyalty to both the RSS and PM was under suspicion, ever since Modi’s rally at Kolkata’s Parade Ground on February 5 this year.
Not only did Varun not garland Modi at the rally but later disputed party’s claims that the rally was a success, as over two lakh people attended. Varun told the media the turnout was “okay” at 40,000 to 50,000. Also, Varun continued to take his brief from then party President Rajnath Singh and his election posters didn’t feature Modi. Varun’s links with RSS leadership have also been tenuous, and decided to genuflect to the Sangh elders too late in the day.
But B S Yeddyurappa, the scam-tainted 71-year-old former Karnataka CM, was rehabilitated because he was sulking at not being included in Modi’s council of ministers and is crucial to BJP’s electoral fortunes not just in Karnataka, but also in Maharashtra.
Yeddyurappa is the tallest Lingayat leader and the community is dominant enough to make or mar prospects in Karnataka and neighbouring areas of Maharashtra. Yeddyurappa is currently campaigning for his son B Y Raghavendra, the BJP candidate for the Shikaripur Assembly segment, one of three Karnataka Assembly seats slated for bypolls on August 21.
Vice-presidents Kalyan Singh (72), S S Ahluwalia (63), Balbir Punj (64), C P Thakur (83), and Laxmi Kanta Chawla (73), were dropped for various reasons from loyalty to their advanced years. Party sources said the intent was to give an opportunity to younger people. They said Thakur is a Rajya Sabha MP, while Ahluwalia is a Lok Sabha MP from Darjeeling and Chawla has served as a cabinet minister in the Punjab government. Punj and Ahluwalia are said to be not particularly close to the Modi-Shah team. Kalyan Singh has been asked to take up a gubernatorial assignment.
|NEW BOSS, NEW RULES|
Several of those with close links to the RSS have found a place in Shah’s team. Ram Madhav, a recent BJP entrant from RSS, is one of the eight general secretaries in the new team. He will eventually replace general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal, who is likely to return to the parent body. Madhav, along with the expanded team of joint general secretaries (organisation), will coordinate between RSS, the party and the government.
The new team has four instead of earlier two joint general secretaries (organisation) with RSS’s Shiv Prakash and B L Santosh joining V Satish and Saudan Singh. Of the eight general secretaries, five have strong RSS roots, including P Muralidhar Rao and Ramshankar Katheriya. J P Nadda, an RSS favourite, has been retained, while Vinay Sahasrabuddhe has found entry in the list of vice-presidents. Other vice-presidents are Purushottam Rupala and Prabhat Jha, former state BJP unit presidents in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh respectively, Raghuvar Das, a former deputy chief minister of Jharkhand, Rajya Sabha MP Bhupendra Yadav (Rajasthan), etc. A key omission from the list of spokespersons is Captain Abhimanyu. But he is likely to play a greater role in Haryana if the BJP wins the Assembly elections in that state.
Loyalty, age and future utility to the party are likely to be some of the thumb rules that might be followed when the party, under Modi and Shah, revamps its highest decision making bodies — the Parliamentary Board and Central Election Committee (CEC).
BJP’s 75-member National Executive plays a key role in the selection of the board and CEC. Article 25 of the BJP constitution states that the National Executive shall set up a Parliamentary Board comprising the party president as the chairperson and 10 other members, one of whom shall be the leader of the party in Parliament (Modi) and a general secretary of the party chosen by the board chairperson would be its secretary. Currently, it is general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal. Article 26 entails the National Executive to set up a CEC with consisting of the Parliamentary Board and eight more members.
The party constitution gives the Parliamentary Board overarching powers over party activities, while CEC ratifies the list of election candidates. Shah would need the revamped CEC to stamp its approval to the list of candidates for the impending Assembly elections in Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.
RSS imprint and the control of Modi-Shah team on the party structure is also likely to be seen in the choice of party treasurer, lying vacant after Piyush Goyal became a minister in the Modi government. Surendra Motilal Patel ‘Kaka’ and Parindu Bhagat, both from Gujarat, are two likely candidates. Patel, a former Gujarat BJP treasurer, is close to Modi but is 77 years old. Bhagat is 61 and a chartered accountant from RSS ranks. Modi is said to trust him blindly.
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