The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP rejig sends Mahajan sliding

New Delhi, June 6: The BJP today revamped its hierarchy, clipping the wings of Pramod Mahajan, who was its key strategist in the general elections, and appointed new general secretaries who are expected to rejig the party in the wake of the debacle in the polls.

Mahajan, the brain behind the party’s India Shining campaign and its chief election manager, continues as a general secretary but has been stripped of the important posts of secretary of the BJP parliamentary board and secretary of its central election committee. He has been put in charge of Maharashtra that goes to polls later this year. Sanjay Joshi, also a party general secretary, will assist him.

For Mahajan, the responsibility will confine him to his home state. It also means his future in the party will be at stake in the Assembly polls. What continues to work in his favour is the confidence he enjoys with Vajpayee, who is the party’s most public face but not an apparatchik given to tinkering with the party organisation.

Shivraj Singh Chauhan, an OBC leader and MP from Madhya Pradesh who was national secretary, has benefited at Mahajan’s cost. He was promoted as general secretary and also given the responsibilities of the parliamentary board and the central election committee. Chauhan strengthens the party from Madhya Pradesh — the party’s success story — and can also act as a counterweight to Uma Bharti. Chauhan is also relatively young.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu has reconstituted a 10-member parliamentary board, which includes Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, Jaswant Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. Naidu named a six-member central election committee that will select candidates for elections.

Former ministers Jaitley and Rajnath Singh were also appointed general secretaries. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who was general secretary, has been made vice-president but will continue as spokesman. In the BJP’s scheme of organisation, the post of vice-president is less important than the post of general secretary even if it is a notch higher. Naqvi continues to enjoy Naidu’s trust and so continues as spokesman.

Significantly, the party has dispensed with the symbolism of giving representation to all categories among its general secretaries. Swaraj, who was tipped to be a general secretary, had expressed reluctance to take on the responsibility under Naidu. So, she was made deputy leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha, a post that has little more than nominal value.

With Naqvi also “kicked upstairs” as vice-president, the party’s panel of general secretaries makes little concession to tokenism. The leadership appears to be convinced that it will take much more than the symbolism of a Muslim as spokesman to win minority votes. Naqvi will also be in charge of the party headquarters.

This is the first time that the BJP has given up the balancing act on caste, community and gender grounds among its panel of general secretaries since ideologue K.. Govindacharya began the practice when he was a general secretary. However, the party has retained a representative character by appointing women and leaders from different sections as secretaries or vice-presidents. There are 20 new members in the 78-member national executive. Of these 20, 13 are women and 11 are Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and backward caste leader Kalyan Singh has been made a vice-president. But with Rajnath being appointed general secretary along with Jaitley, the question of who will be put in charge of affairs in the heartland is yet to be settled. Rajnath looks better placed than Kalyan to get the responsibility. Another former chief minister among the vice-presidents is Babulal Marandi from Jharkhand.

Jaitley’s elevation means Naidu and the leadership will continue to vest in him the responsibility of projecting its viewpoint forcefully in the electronic media. Jaitley today said Naidu had kept the reconstitution of his team pending since taking over as party chief because of the Lok Sabha polls. In the reconstituted list of office bearers, care had been taken to ensure that all sections were represented, he added.

Yashwant Sinha has also been made a spokesman. He would be entrusted the responsibility of articulating the party’s line on economic policy. It was a role he played before the party came to power. First-time MP and Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra has also been made a spokesman. Manvendra migrated to politics from journalism.

In other changes, Naidu brought in Sukumar Nambiar as treasurer in place of Ramdas Aggarwal, and dropped Pyarelal Khandelwal who was vice- president.

Two women who find themselves in the reckoning are former Union minister Jaskaur Meena of Rajasthan, who has been made a vice-president, and Kiran Maheshwari, also from Rajasthan, who has been made a secretary. Shahnawaz Hussain, the former civil aviation minister who sought a high-profile post as a leader of minorities, is a national secretary, a post that is little more than ornamental.

In changes in the party’s frontal outfits, Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla has been asked to head the women’s wing.

Dharmendra Pradhan from Orissa replaced Kishan Reddy as the president of the youth wing.

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