Amit Shah, Varun Gandhi
New Delhi, Aug. 16: Varun Gandhi has been excluded from Amit Shah’s team.
The move is being perceived in the BJP as marking the arrival of a new order that refused to celebrate lineage as a political plus.
In February 2004, when Varun, son of Sanjay and Maneka Gandhi and the grandson of Indira Gandhi, was welcomed by the BJP with his mother, the late Pramod Mahajan, who had authored the stratagem and flaunted it as a “coup”, claimed his party could “boast” of having in its midst a descendant of Motilal Nehru.
Others like L.K. Advani and even the RSS brass were equally in awe of Varun, although he steadfastly refused to observe Sangh protocol when invited to events at Nagpur.
Varun was a general secretary in Rajnath Singh’s team. Shah, who has succeeded Rajnath as BJP president, placed a “premium” on youth — “60 per cent are below 50” — ideological anchorage and field experience in states while recasting his, sources said.
Varun, MP from Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh, is only 34 and, by that yardstick, should have been retained.
Several reasons have been put forward on why he was dropped, the prime among them being he fell foul of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Modiji had taken note of the fact that he did not once invoke his name in his election campaign. Also, at an event in Bengal, he was unusually deferential towards Rajnath Singh but barely civil towards Modiji,” a source said.
Sources said the “one-family-one-post” norm was used to justify his exclusion. Maneka is a Union minister.
The last straw was offered by Maneka. At a recent public meeting, she indicated Varun could be projected as the Uttar Pradesh chief ministerial candidate, a suggestion that so angered Modi that Shah sought an explanation from her.
Varun was offered the vice-president’s post but refused, calling it “ceremonial”.
Agra MP Ram Shankar Katheria stepped into Varun’s place as a general secretary from Uttar Pradesh’s quota.
Among the eight general secretaries appointed — two vacancies remain — Ram Madhav, a former joint national outreach chief of the RSS, is one. The RSS has also formed a strong pillar in Shah’s apparatus by way of a quartet of joint general secretaries (organisation). The four are RSS whole-timers on loan to the BJP.
Two, V. Sathish and Saudan Singh, were part of the old team. They have been joined by Shiv Prakash and B.L. Santosh, from Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, respectively.
The other new inductees are Bhupendra Yadav, who was promoted from a secretary, and Saroj Pandey, a former MP from Chhattisgarh.
The 10 spokespersons include M.J. Akbar, Sambit Patra, Meenakshi Lekhi and G.V.L. Narasimha Rao. Anil Baluni, whose brief claim to fame derived from his boast that, as Gujarat chief minister, Modi had “evacuated 15,000 Gujaratis” from the Uttarakhand flash floods, also figured on the list.
B.S. Yeddyurappa, former Karnataka chief minister, was appointed a vice-president.
For the first time, the office-bearers were identified by caste, community and gender.