The Bharatiya Janata Party has re-inducted Narendra Modi into its parliamentary board, sending the clearest signal yet that the Gujarat chief minister and the party’s governance mascot will be its face in the next elections.
Modi, who was inducted into the board after a six-year gap, was the only chief minister to find a place in BJP’s top decision-making body announced by its president Rajnath Singh. Several close supporters of Modi also found prominent places in the rejig, underscoring his primacy in BJP’s line-up of prime ministerial aspirants.
Modi, who wrecked the prime ministerial ambitions of his colleagues in the BJP with the Gujarat win, can be expected to play a larger role in shaping the BJP’s electoral message for the next polls. A formal announcement of his candidature for the top post is unlikely in the immediate run as it could push the JD(U) out of the NDA, increasing the comfort level of the ruling UPA.
The composition of the Rajnath Singh team gave tell tale signs of Modi’s growing clout in the organisational set-up. While Modi managed to get the leadership clip the wings of Advani acolyte Ananth Kumar, he ensured the induction of his loyalist Amit Shah as general secretary. Shah is expected to handle important portfolios in the organisation. Other vocal Modi loyalists in the party, who routinely lock horns with the chief minister’s political adversaries on public platforms, also found berths in the new team. One of them, CP Thakur, who was made a vice-president, said the BJP would now persuade Nitish Kumar to accept the candidature of Modi. The list of office-bearers, which was put to a series of consultations and several changes, has taken care to appease important sections of the organisation. Rajnath Singh, who is keen to avert a repeat of his last tenure, marked by internecine squabbles, consulted all senior leaders, besides the RSS top brass. Singh, sources said, succeeded in getting the Gujarat chief minister to abandon his reservations over the inclusion of Muralidhar Rao as general secretary and SS Ahluwalia as vice-president. Rao, who was with the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, enjoys the backing of the RSS. The party president also managed to sideline senior leaders from Uttar Pradesh who have failed to shore up BJP’s chances in the state. Singh, who made Varun Gandhi a general secretary, dropped leaders such as Kalraj Mishra from the central team. Similarly, he sent senior leader from Himachal Pradesh Shanta Kumar to retirement.
Yashwant Sinha, a bitter critic of former BJP president Nitin Gadkari, could not find a place in the central team after the proposal to accommodate him was resisted strongly by Gadkari and his patrons in the RSS. Sinha had threatened to contest the presidential election if the party decided on a second term for Gadkari, whose business group Purti was accused of questionable dealings. Sinha on Sunday welcomed the changes.
Jaswant Singh’s marginalisation in the BJP appears complete as the party leadership did not accommodate him in any of the central panels. Singh used to be an important member of the parliamentary board before his rebellion against the party.