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Fully focused, Shah girds up for poll test

New Delhi, Aug. 8: Amit Shah’s formal anointment as BJP president, after a procedural ratification by the party’s national council tomorrow, marks the conclusive phase of a generational shift.

Posters plastered all over the national capital encapsulate the change: photographs of the BJP’s original patriarchs and ideologues, Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, have been replaced with those of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, sharing space with Narendra Modi and Shah.

The Gujarat duo have infused a culture of “corporate efficiency” in the easy-going ambience at the BJP headquarters. CCTVs have been set up to monitor movements and appointments with party seniors are regulated, in contrast to the days when callers could saunter in and out of the rooms of netas. “Keeping deadlines is sacrosanct,” a BJP official stressed.

Shah is expected to recast his team using the ground rules that the Prime Minister set while constituting his cabinet, sources said. The inclusion of sons and daughters of BJP leaders was a no-no, as was that of leaders over 70. Sources said Shah was incensed when Union minister Maneka Gandhi this week publicly articulated her desire to see son Varun as Uttar Pradesh chief minister and told her off.

The new BJP president, who earned his spurs in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha polls, is “fully focused” on the upcoming Assembly elections and bypolls, the sources said. “His reputation rides on success or failure in these elections,” an office-bearer said. He quoted a dictum the new BJP president uses: “If the BJP’s graph slides, it will be because of the BJP and not because of a sudden Congress revival.”

Among the immediate challenges before Shah are:

Keeping the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance intact for the Maharashtra polls and sustaining the high strike rate of the Lok Sabha elections

Wresting Haryana

Putting Delhi in order as a mid-term poll looms. Shah has attempted a rejig to reflect the increasing dominance of migrants from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh in the BJP organisation. He has appointed as president Satish Upadhyaya, who is originally from Agra. Prabhat Jha, who hails from Bihar and is settled in Madhya Pradesh, has been made prabhari (minder) and J.P. Nadda, who is from Himachal Pradesh but has spent long years in Bihar, informally given charge of the state

Stemming factionalism in Uttarakhand

Keeping up the momentum in Uttar Pradesh

Converting the “groundswell” of support in states like Bengal and Assam into votes and foraying into Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Telangana.

Shah was named Rajnath Singh’s successor on July 9.

An amendment to the party constitution had enabled a three-year term for a party president instead of two years. Another tweak allowed a second three-year term to an incumbent, prompted by the RSS’s wish to give Nitin Gadkari a second innings in 2013.

That wish was not fulfilled after Gadkari was implicated in financial irregularities. Instead, Rajnath was chosen to helm the party. His tenure was cut short when he became Union minister since the BJP follows the one-person-one-post norm. Shah will effectively complete the rest of Rajnath’s term and, depending on how the BJP’s politics pans out, pitch for a second term in 2016.