New Delhi, July 1: As four governors appointed by the UPA have quit, the BJP is in a bit of a quandary to seek replacements from its pool of hard-core political veterans.
The reason? Even if such leaders are over the hill, they have told home minister Rajnath Singh they wish to remain “politically active” and not be sent off to Raj Bhavans.
Uttar Pradesh BJP sources said Kalyan Singh and Lalji Tandon, in their late seventies or early eighties, have refused the offer. Kesri Nath Tripathi, a contemporary and a long-time Assembly Speaker, was the only one who sounded positive about the idea.
Tripathi, an Allahabad-based lawyer, said: “I won’t speak on whether I have been offered governorship. It is for the party to decide. If there is an offer, why should I refuse?”
Efforts were on to persuade Kalyan and Tandon to do a rethink. Tandon indicated he was not “enamoured” of the position. “Whether I stay active in politics or not is not the point. I am not interested in governorship because all my life I have lived like a common man, without the title and trappings of a grand office,” he told The Telegraph.
BJP sources said given their “indifferent political equations” with a younger Rajnath, the Prime Minister may have to step in.
Tandon, Kalyan and Tripathi dominated the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh hierarchy for decades under the patronage of A.B. Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and the RSS. During their reign, Rajnath and Vinay Katiyar had desperately looked for a place in the Uttar Pradesh sun but could not find one.
Rajnath and Katiyar moved to Delhi when the NDA was in power. For a while, Rajnath returned to Lucknow as chief minister but moved back to Delhi where he rose rapidly to become the BJP president. But Katiyar, once the Hindutva face, fell by the wayside.
Tandon and Kalyan openly resented Rajnath’s success. “In this backdrop, Rajnath is not in a position to persuade them to become governors,” a source said.
Those close to Rajnath said although these seniors had “outlived” their political usefulness — they did not contest the Lok Sabha election — their presence in Lucknow could act as a countervail against him. “He wants to run Uttar Pradesh, unfettered by rivals,” a source said.
But the BJP’s bigger worry is if Tandon and Kalyan are allowed to have their way, other older leaders might also insist on being “politically active”.
Sources said V.K. Malhotra, once a pillar of the Delhi BJP but “irrelevant now”, is tipped to become a governor. “But if Kalyan and Tandon lead by example, we can’t say how Malhotra will react,” a source said.
Those close to Kalyan and Tandon said what was “galling” was the decision to make them governors would bear Rajnath’s “official stamp” and the position was being projected as a post-retirement sinecure for “good services” rendered to the BJP.
The Raj Bhavan vacancies are likely to be filled after Parliament’s budget session ends on August 14.
Sources said there were larger political considerations at work. In choosing an incumbent for Bengal, for instance, they said the BJP would have to sort out its “line” on Mamata Banerjee.
“The question is do we wish to be aggressive and tap the anti-incumbency against the Trinamul Congress instead of giving space to the Left? Or should we be pragmatic and opt for a conciliatory line because of Trinamul’s big numbers in the Rajya Sabha?” a source asked.