The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP begins passing the baton

New Delhi, May 12: Coimbatore MP C.P. Radhakrishnan’s “unanimous election” as Tamil Nadu BJP president today is expected to set in motion the process of passing the baton from the old to the young and extending the concept of “generational” change to the states as well.

Although there is a question mark on the date on which the next Cabinet shuffle would take place, there is speculation that it would be after the Prime Minister returns from his Manali holiday.

Highly-placed BJP sources say three ministers are “most likely” to be moved to their states of origin to head the party units.

They are urban development minister Ananth Kumar for Karnataka, minister of state for Railways Bandaru Dattatreya for Andhra Pradesh and minister of state for infotech and communications Sanjay Paswan for Bihar.

In the three cases, the effort from Delhi is to project the changes as a “response” to the state unit’s “demand” for a “new and dynamic leader” but the view from the other side is entirely different. Karnataka BJP sources, for instance, maintained that Kumar’s appointment would be “ruinous” for the already debilitated state unit which had still not put its house in order after the rout in the last general elections.

“Our case before the high command is that nobody from the established phalanx of leaders, including Kumar, B.S. Yedduriappa and Ishwarappa should be considered because each of them has created a faction and failed to take the entire cadre with him,” they said.

It is believed that BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu is keen on despatching Kumar, an old loyalist. But state sources also questioned his relevance in terms of caste. A Brahmin from Bangalore, Kumar, they said, would be “ill-suited” for Karnataka where the two communities that mattered the most electorally and otherwise were the Lingayats and Vokkaligas.

Paswan, on the other hand, is being considered for the Bihar BJP president’s post to “correct” the impression that it was a party of upper caste Rajputs and Bhumihars. The present incumbent, Nand Kishore Yadav, a protege of K.. Govindacharya, is deemed as a “failed leader” since the intent he was brought for — to wean away a section of the Yadavs from the Rashtriya Janata Dal — has remained unfulfilled.

The BJP’s reading is that the Dalit vote is still divided and with Ram Vilas Paswan groping for a political anchor, Sanjay Paswan could be used to woo the influential Paswan community.

Sources also said his induction would break the Govindacharya-created axis of Yadav and Sushil Modi in Bihar and pave the way for the emergence of a new leadership.

In Tamil Nadu, after taking over as party chief, Radhakrishnan hinted at a parting of ways between the BJP and the DMK and a rapprochement with the ADMK. The ADMK was praised for implementing the BJP’s agenda “one by one”.

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