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Below-50 majority hint in Shah team

Amit Shah

New Delhi, Aug. 11: BJP president Amit Shah’s team of office-bearers will be announced this week and is expected to indicate who is in, who goes up and who is out.

Sources said those retained have effectively no chance of making it to Narendra Modi’s council of ministers if and when it is expanded or shuffled.

Those among the existing officials who are out have a “glimmer of hope” of a ministerial berth or losing out on both: a place in the BJP organisation and the government. “The last means it is curtains for them,” a source said.

The sources said that while Shah’s team may not end up as a “bachcha (kids’) brigade”, “60 per cent” of the inductees could be “below 50” while those above 70 could be eased out. If the age criterion is used, it could impact some of those holding the office of vice-president like Bihar MP C.P. Thakur, Kalyan Singh and Laxmi Kant Chawla of Punjab.

Kalyan is still being persuaded, “against his grain”, to take up a governor’s post that will take him out of Uttar Pradesh.

Although vice-president Balbir Punj does not strictly qualify as a “senior citizen” in political terms (he is 64), sources said he may be dropped from Shah’s team because of his perceived proximity to L.K. Advani and the suspicion that his “loyalties were divided” in the Modi dispensation.

Punj, a former journalist, owed his rise in the BJP principally to Advani who always counted him as a member of his core team.

However, it would be the appointments to the next tier of the hierarchy, comprising the general secretaries, that sources said would indicate who Shah and Modi trust.

In the BJP’s power ladder, the general secretaries are considered the most powerful after the president and are assigned the states.

Of the nine general secretaries, including Ram Lal (who is charge of the organisation and is the BJP’s main channel to the RSS), three have moved to the government: Ananth Kumar, Thawarchand Gehlot and Dharmendra Pradhan.

From the remaining lot, it is learnt that Rajiv Pratap Rudy and P. Murlidhar Rao are “trying hard” to retain their posts.

It is almost certain that Ram Madhav and Shiv Prakash, “loaned” to the BJP by the RSS in July, will be designated either as general secretaries or joint general secretaries and handed out important responsibilities.

J.P. Nadda, also a general secretary, who was briefly named as a candidate for party president with Shah, is among those tipped to shift to the cabinet. However, sources scotched this speculation. “The possibility arises only if his name doesn’t figure in Shah’s team. Then it will confirm that he could become a minister,” a source said.

Among the younger lot, Poonam Mahajan and Anurag Thakur were named as probables for general secretary and secretary, respectively.