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‘Defanged’ Advani, Joshi to retain place

Advani, Joshi

New Delhi, Aug. 17: Amit Shah’s team is in place, except for two vacant posts of general secretaries.

Now all eyes are fixed on the composition of the BJP’s two top policy-and-decision-making bodies — the parliamentary board and the central election committee.

The BJP president is first expected to reconstitute the national executive and national council to fulfil a constitutional requirement. Article XXV of the BJP constitution states that the national executive shall set up a parliamentary board comprising the party president and 10 other members, one of whom shall be the leader of the party in Parliament (Narendra Modi) while the party president (Shah) will chair the board.

Similarly, Article XXVI states that the central election committee consisting of the parliamentary board and eight other members will be elected by the national executive according to rules.

Sources said Shah needs to get cracking because these panels will ratify the candidates for the impending Assembly elections in Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.

Veterans L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who are out on a limb in the Modi- Shah dispensation, will, however, remain on these committees by virtue of being former BJP presidents.

Every president continued being on these apex panels even after demitting office except for K. Bangaru Laxman, who left in a cloud of disgrace.

There was a suggestion that Advani and Joshi — who some in the BJP feared could use their presence to try and influence and even veto critical decisions in tandem — could be enlisted as “special invitees” instead of as regular members. There is, however, no provision in the constitution that sanctions such a status.

Nobody bought into the idea. “These seniors have been so appropriately defanged that nobody visualises their revival,” a source said. “They don’t have the RSS’s blessing either.”

The constitutional cap of 10 members in the parliamentary board has not always been followed. For instance, the current membership runs into 13 — Shah, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani, Modi, Joshi, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar, Thawarchand Gehlot and Ramlal.

Ramlal is represented as the general secretary (organisation), a post that makes him a conduit between the RSS and the BJP.

Sources said Naidu, Kumar and Gehlot, all Union ministers, would certainly be out and their places occupied from among the new general secretaries.

Although Ramlal stays in the same rank in Shah’s team, sources said he is most likely to return this November to his original home in the RSS as a member of the Sangh’s recast central executive committee. He is likely to be replaced by the senior-most joint general secretary (organisation), V. Satish, who is also of Sangh vintage and shares a good equation with Modi.

The selection of a BJP treasurer is another move that could potentially reinforce the Modi-Shah stranglehold. The post, held by power minister Piyush Goyal, is vacant.

Former BJP president Gadkari reportedly tried hard to get in his favourite from Nagpur, Ajay Sancheti, a Rajya Sabha MP, but did not succeed. Two names, both from Gujarat, are in currency: those of Surendra Motilal Patel or “Kaka” and Parindu Bhagat.

Patel was a treasurer of the Gujarat BJP for years and has Modi’s ears. His only negative, if that, is that he is 77 and does not fit into Modi’s norm that relegates those above 75 to retirement.

Bhagat is 61. A chartered accountant, he began his political life in the RSS and became so close to Modi that he left the management of his media campaigns in the Gujarat elections to Bhagat, also called “Kakubhai”.