The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Correction course for BJP

New Delhi, Jan. 31: It is the BJP’s turn for a repair job after the Cabinet shuffle is over and done with. Well-placed party sources said BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu is expected to do a mid-course corrective during which some existing office-bearers could be replaced and the duty chart of others redrafted. The changes may be effected in the next 10 days.

Naidu — who apparently did some groundwork — will consult the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister after the latter returns from Thailand. Sources said the main criteria for reconstituting Naidu’s team would be performance or the lack of it, maintaining regional balance and meeting the requirements of poll-bound states.

The exercise was also occasioned by the unexpected entry of Pramod Mahajan in the party. Sources indicated that though outwardly Mahajan maintained that he was prepared to “serve” under a relatively junior Naidu, the leadership was keen on expanding his mandate in keeping with his experience and political understanding.

After being anointed general secretary and spokesman, Naidu gave Mahajan two key positions — secretary of the parliamentary board, the top decision-making body, and secretary of the central election committee, which finalises party candidates for all elections and takes decisions on election strategy. The additional designations indicated that the former parliamentary affairs minister was likely to play as important a role in policy planning and decision-making as Naidu.

Naidu’s move to involve Arun Jaitley in the Himachal Pradesh elections — even after he was reinducted as a minister — was seen as an “armour” to shield himself against Mahajan’s “clout”. He decided that both should camp in Shimla from early February till the elections are over.

Sources said Mahajan could be made in charge of the four poll-bound states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi, which are presently being looked after by various office-bearers.

Sources close to Naidu said he was keen not to have persons belonging to a particular state as its prabhari (in-charge) because of the tendency to develop political stakes. If this yardstick was followed, they said Rajnath Singh could lose charge of Uttar Pradesh.

The former chief minister opposed the alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party from the start and his periodic statements against chief minister Mayavati disconcerted central leaders who hoped to cement a long-term understanding with her.

Another general secretary, Anita Arya, may be dropped altogether because she was seen as “ineffective”. Arya’s USP was that she was a woman and a Dalit. But sources said that if the organisation was to be revved up before the elections, a more “dynamic” woman was needed. Uma Bharti, who resigned, may replace Arya.

Among the eight vice-presidents, veteran Kailashpati Mishra could be eased out after being offered governorship while Gopinath Munde — who is Mahajan’s brother-in-law — could be moved to Maharashtra to work for the Assembly polls, due with the Lok Sabha election in 2004.

The head of the BJP’s women’s and farmers’ wings, Kanta Nalwade and Mahadev Shivankar, respectively, were likely to be replaced while those of the other four frontal organisations will continue.

Former shipping minister Ved Prakash Goyal, who was also told to return to the party in the recent shuffle, may be given charge of the overseas chapter of the BJP called the Overseas Friends. The outfit was dissolved after RSS joint general secretary Madan Das Devi expressed unhappiness at the way it functioned and decided that the BJP should monitor its activities from India.

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