The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A pinch a day for Naidu

New Delhi, July 3: Murmurs of dissent against BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu are slowly gaining ground within the party despite the official suggestion that he would continue to head it for the next three years.

The reason is not just the fresh charges of irregularities that a senior leader has levelled against Naidu but the perception that he has “overturned” the BJP constitution while appointing “hand-picked” men to key posts when organisational polls are underway.

A note this leader circulated claimed that Shanta Kumar, who succeeded Naidu as rural development minister, lost his job for recommending a probe into fund allocations for the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana as well as disproportionate spending on media and publicity when the BJP chief headed the ministry.

An earlier case in which Naidu was said to have usurped land allotted to Dalits in his home state, Andhra Pradesh, as a legislator has come as added ammunition for his detractors, who said the “ground” is being prepared for “decisive action”.

The more recent “lauh purush-vikas purush” controversy that Naidu sparked when he projected L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the party’s twin mascots for the Lok Sabha polls have further strengthened the arsenal of his rivals.

But the “last straw”, they said, was a suo motu declaration in an unsigned statement the party released on July 1 after Naidu completed a year as chief. It said he would not accept any responsibility after the 2004 polls.

Naidu was appointed chief virtually out of the blue last year after a section of the party felt that his predecessor, K. Jana Krishnamurthi, was “unsuited” to lead the BJP in the elections. But questions were raised about the way the party constitution was flouted. According to the rules, a president’s appointment has to be ratified either by the national council at its next sitting or in the organisational elections.

In the normal course, Naidu’s position would have been formally endorsed by the BJP in November when the organisational polls would have ended. Sources said it would have been a “mere ritual” as the president’s post has never been contested in the BJP. But the statement, they said, has raised doubts, especially when it is known that Naidu cleared it himself.

“It is curious that the party chief announced he would continue for a certain period when it is a known fact that such decisions are taken by the parliamentary board. Is he trying to overstep certain norms for reasons best known to him'” asked a source.

It is believed that the RSS, too, has not taken kindly to the statement, though for a different reason. “Even under more illustrious heads, the party has never issued a seven-page statement documenting their achievements. It goes against our culture of glorifying individuals,” said a source.

Party insiders are sceptical of the way in which Naidu allegedly removed and appointed state presidents, the recent examples being those of C.P. Radhakrishnan (Tamil Nadu) and Ananth Kumar (Karnataka).

On the anvil are the appointments of Indrasen Reddy, central minister Sanjay Paswan and former chief minister Babulal Maranadi as chiefs of the Andhra, Bihar and Jharkhand units.

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