New Delhi, March 30: Narendra Modi is set to return to the BJP’s topmost policy and decision-making body, the parliamentary board.
Rajnath Singh, who in his earlier term as party president had dropped Modi under the Sangh’s prodding, is inducting him into the board.
Not only are Rajnath and Modi displaying camaraderie this time, at least publicly, even the Sangh has consented to the Gujarat chief minister’s induction, acknowledging that he is the BJP’s “biggest mass leader” at the moment.
The counter argument, which came largely from L.K. Advani, was that the BJP’s other chief ministers, notably Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chauhan, were as “successful” and “popular” as Modi was and could therefore legitimately claim a place on the board, a source said.
An Advani aide has consistently argued that the party constitution allows no place for a state leader on the parliamentary board, but actually it has no such provision.
Modi’s induction is a prelude to his appointment as the campaign committee chief for the 2014 elections. But that, sources clarified, will not happen immediately because there are several arguments against his early national plan.
“If we announce his name right away, the NDA will unravel. Nitish Kumar will leave. The Shiv Sena doesn’t want Modi. The Muslims will consolidate fully behind the Congress. It helps us as a strategy to keep his name afloat because every attack on him from the Congress and the secularists strengthens his position,” a source said.
“At this point, a projection as candidate for Prime Minister might deprive him of this advantage. He is not a fool. He realises the merits and demerits of the issue; he knows why sections of the media are demanding to know whether he will be a PM candidate or not.”
Rajnath is also trying to “console” Chauhan, who was apparently convinced that he too was making it to the top team.
The 12-member board has only one vacancy, created by the death of veteran Bal Apte last year. Sources said Chauhan’s induction would have meant that someone would have had to be dropped.
“That would have upset the apple cart in many ways,” a source said.
The most important objection was that such a move would have invalidated the message of Modi’s centrality to the BJP’s 2014 game plan because it might have levelled the field for Chauhan, especially if he won a third term in Madhya Pradesh this year.
Pressured by Sangh joint general secretary Suresh Soni, Rajnath was about to appoint former Madhya Pradesh BJP president Prabhat Jha as a general secretary but may now step back under pressure from Chauhan.
In the BJP’s organisational hierarchy, a general secretary’s post commands a higher premium than a vice-president’s because the latter is regarded as a “retirement place” or a “reward’ for celebrities like Hema Malini. On the other hand, a general secretary has a say in ticket distribution in their home states.
Jha lost the Madhya Pradesh job at Chauhan’s insistence and the chief minister’s favourite, Narendra Singh Tomar, stepped into Jha’s shoes.
Jha is not the only source of irritation for Chauhan. Uma Bharti too had lobbied hard for the general secretary’s job but Chauhan promptly quashed her claim.
“He said that in an election year, it wouldn’t help him and the BJP to have two of his adversaries in Delhi because they would interfere in nominating candidates, campaigning, etc. Chauhan mentioned that had it been Modi or Vasundhara Raje, the party would not have dared to annoy them in this manner. He let it be known that his amicability should not be misunderstood for weakness,” a source said.
It appears that Jha may be made a vice-president, while Uma’s fate remains uncertain.
Varun Gandhi and Amit Shah are likely to be made general secretaries.
Shah is an accused in two fake encounters that were staged when he was a minister of state for home in the Modi government.
Sources said that although some central leaders were against Shah’s appointment, Modi was pushing for it because he couldn’t make him a minister this time.
Shah’s presence in the central team will allow Modi to have his say by proxy. Besides, Shah will be his “eyes and ears” in Delhi.