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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Rajnath fields Modi’s team RADHIKA RAMASESHAN



Rajnath fields Modi's team

RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
New Delhi, March 31: Rajnath Singh unwrapped the BJP's Team 2014 but not without letting it be known that it bore Narendra Modi's imprint.
Not only was Modi re-inducted into the parliamentary board that signs and seals the BJP's policies and decisions, he was also put on the central election committee that vets and approves the candidates in every poll.
That he was the only one among the BJP's five chief ministers to make it to these panels re-establishes his place as a first among equals — a process that began in May 2012 at the Mumbai national executive where he forced his party and the RSS to dump Sanjay Joshi, a Sangh favourite.
Modi's mark was evident in the induction of three Bihar leaders, all known baiters of chief minister Nitish Kumar — C.P. Thakur as vice-president, Rameshwar Chaurasia as secretary, and Ashwini Chaube as national executive member.
Several others made it because of their demonstrated support for the Gujarat chief minister. The preponderance of Gujarat representatives, all Modi loyalists, was another sign of his growing clout. (See chart)
Against the wishes of some leaders, Amit Shah, a former minister of state for home and an accused in two fake encounter cases, was appointed general secretary — a post next in importance to that of the president.
Sources said Modi pushed for the induction because while Shah continued to be useful as a strategist in Gujarat, he would not "risk" taking him back in his ministry.
Shah's entry is also inextricably tied to the churning in the Gujarat BJP, where Modi appears to have begun grooming senior minister and confidant Anandiben Patel as his successor if he were to relocate to Delhi.
Anandiben, Nitin Patel, a senior minister who stayed on with Modi despite starting off as a protégé of rebel BJP leader Keshubhai Patel, and Shanker Chaudhari, a young minister mentored by Modi, were included in the national executive.
Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the Madhya Pradesh chief minister, did not find a place on the apex committees. Rajnath indulged him to the extent that Chauhan's rivals Prabhat Jha and Uma Bharti were not inducted as general secretaries but as vice-presidents.
L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj fought hard for Chauhan to be placed on a par with Modi, sources said. Just two Advani favourites made it — a reflection of the veteran's shrinking say in party affairs. Ananth Kumar retained his place as a general secretary while Murlidhar Rao was promoted from secretary to general secretary.
Barring Advani and Sushma, the others wanted to edge out Ananth Kumar, who is being blamed for reducing the BJP from ruling party to bit player in Karnataka with his oust-Yeddyurappa campaign.
While walking an extra mile and more to please Modi, Rajnath took care to see he did not stray too much and displease the others who mattered, the sources said.
For instance, Nitin Gadkari as well as the RSS put their foot down and ensured that Yashwant Sinha, the former finance and foreign minister, was not accommodated.
Sinha, an MP from Hazaribagh, had openly opposed a second term for Gadkari as BJP president after a financial scandal, though RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was in favour of a fresh term.
Rajnath, an old Jharkhand hand who realised the perils of playing one faction against another, did not give anything to former chief minister Arjun Munda, either. Munda and Sinha are close competitors. Indeed, the only Jharkhand representative is Louise Marandi as a secretary, notwithstanding the state's importance in the BJP's political scheme.
Perhaps realising that one former chief minister (Yeddyurappa) of Karnataka was about to demolish the BJP in the state elections, another sulking former chief minister, Sadanand Gowda, was "placated" with a vice-president's position although a source from the state dismissed the gesture as "irrelevant".
Varun Gandhi's induction as a general secretary caused a flap. Uttar Pradesh veteran Vinay Katiyar alleged that the BJP was as enamoured of the famous political surname as the Congress.
State sources said Varun still had a base in the Pilibhit region and had let known his potential in the 2012 Assembly elections: he worked against the BJP and saw to it that the Samajwadi Party won in at least three or four places.
Regional and personality anomalies apart, the exercise gave a wide berth to women, of whom not one was made general secretary. The lone woman in this post, Kiran Maheshwari, was moved up to vice-president.