Ravindra Rai, the new state BJP chief, in Ranchi on Sunday. (Hardeep Singh)
Ranchi, March 10: The BJP today named one-time dissident Ravindra Rai as president of the Jharkhand party unit, in a calculated move to keep former chief minister Arjun Munda happy but risking a further division among senior leaders who were opposed to his appointment.
A general secretary of the party’s farmers’ wing, Rai’s name was announced today by party president Rajnath Singh who also named K.V. Singh Deo as the chief of the party’s Odisha unit.
Rai’s elevation to the party post is a signal that the BJP has, at least for now, chosen to forget his activities as a dissident by siding with Babulal Marandi in 2006.
By backing a Bhumihar like Rai, the BJP is also trying to win over non-tribals at a time when the leadership believes that the tribal vote would be split between regional parties.
But, the fact that Rai — a trusted Munda aide — will be at the helm of party affairs in the state will make it that much more easier for the former chief minister to have a say in crucial matters.
Yet, given that a large section of the party, led by the likes of Yashwant Sinha, Raghubar Das, Saryu Rai and Karia Munda, were openly against Rai means that Munda may also have to indulge in some deft manoeuvring.
Rai for one made the most of his moment in the sun, saying that strengthening the party organisation would be his priority. “Hum party ko majbooti denge aur sapno ka Jharkhand banaenge (I will strengthen the party and make Jharkhand’s dreams come true).”
Rai’s detractors, however, were already talking about procedural impropriety, accusing Rajnath of “overlooking” the BJP party constitution which states that only those who had been a permanent member of the party for the last 10 years could be made state presidents, referring to Rai’s suspension for anti-party activities during 2006-09.
“In case of Natin Gadkari, the party constitution was amended at its Surajkund summit in September last year. But, has that been to accommodate Rai who did not renew his BJP membership during 2006- 09?” confided a senior BJP leader.
“Such appointments can't inspire party workers. There is no celebrationů Being disciplined party workers, we can’t display our protest in public,” another leader, a member of the state BJP core committee, said.
Yashwant Sinha, however, refused to be drawn into any controversy and welcoming Rai’s appointment. “Once the appointment has been made, I am not supposed to discuss circumstances and the manner of appointment.”