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BJP weighs pros and cons of Amit as chief

New Delhi, June 13: Amit Shah, Narendra Modi’s political associate and confidant, appears set to become BJP president if things proceed without a last-minute “upset”, sources said.

The decision to appoint Shah, 50, as Rajnath Singh’s successor could be taken in the next few days. The RSS is on board, the sources said.

Rajnath, now Union home minister, is reportedly keen to helm the BJP “at least until the next lot of Assembly elections are over”, said a source.

Those close to Rajnath argued: “It is appropriate that he should be allowed to continue as the president until the Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana elections are over (in September-October this year). He presided over a historic general election that gave us a full majority for the first time. He has proved his mettle,” the source claimed.

However, in keeping with the norm of “one person, one post” that the BJP has followed so far, a large section said Rajnath should relinquish party presidentship.

Other arguments too seem to have tipped the scales in Shah’s favour. They are:

His “close association” with Modi is expected to ensure that the government-party “synergy” the Prime Minister wants would remain.

When the NDA was in power earlier, the equations got so badly skewed that between 1998 and 2004, the BJP had four chiefs — Kushabhau Thakre, Bangaru Laxman, K. Jana Krishnamurthy and M. Venkaiah Naidu.

“The problem was not Atalji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee); he was never an organisation person and was not excessively concerned about the party nitty-gritty. (L.K.) Advani was the person who wished to control the party by proxy and was, therefore, creating issues for himself and the organisation,” a source said.

“We do not want a repeat of those times. Unlike Vajpayee, Modi will be as involved with the party as with the government. He wants someone at the top with whom he has zero trust deficit.”

Shah, most in the BJP believe, has proved his organisational chops down the years. He has overseen almost 50 elections in Gujarat at every tier and delivered a victory without a break. When he was assigned Uttar Pradesh — where the BJP seemed a loser on every count — he got the act together in barely a year and ensured a record win.

If cadre pressure eventually prompted the RSS and the BJP to have Modi as their Prime Minister candidate, sources said, the cadre is equally keen to have Shah as the president to “sustain their morale and high spirits”.

Asked if the fact that Modi and Shah hailed from Gujarat might upset the BJP’s regional representation, a source close to the RSS said: “No. Modi belongs to the country, he retained Varanasi as his Lok Sabha seat at the cost of giving up Vadodara. Where is the imbalance?”

The prospective new team is expected to bear the imprints of Modi and Shah. “New faces, young faces from the states will be shortlisted for dedication, diligence and cadre appeal,” a source said.

Among those who could make the cut as general secretaries are Poonam Mahajan, the Mumbai MP and daughter of the late Pramod Mahajan, and Raghav Lakhanpal, the Saharanpur MP.

Modi’s continuing engagement with the BJP is reflected in his plan to begin his official sojourn in Goa tomorrow by addressing party workers before he embarks the INS Vikramaditya.

BJP sources said Goa had proved “lucky” for Modi on two occasions. The first was in April 2002, when the BJP national executive rejected his offer to resign as Gujarat chief minister after the 2001 communal violence. Vajpayee, then Prime Minister, had wanted Modi to step down.

The second was in June 2013, when he was declared chairperson of the BJP’s campaign committee, which paved the way for his formal projection as the Prime Minister candidate.