THAKRE SECOND STINT HOPE FADES
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New Delhi, Jan. 21 : Kushabhau Thakre is unlikely to be re-elected as BJP president once his term ends in May. Sources cited his declining health as the main reason for inducting a new face. Thakre has served one term as party chief. Although the BJP constitution was recently amended at the Chennai national council to give just one term of three years (it was previously two years) to all office-bearers, including the president, it was clarified that this would not apply to the organisational elections already under way. Therefore, it was said Thakre would qualify for another term. The party chief himself gave the impression that he was not averse to the idea. Last November, he made a series of contradictory statements about his future plans. At a news conference in Indore, Thakre insisted he would not accept another tenure as president because of his health. A week later, he told reporters in Delhi: 'I will obey the party's dictates and serve in whatever capacity it wishes me to.' BJP sources, however, said his recent illness had practically settled the issue of re-election. 'It is almost out of question now, since he may not be mobile any longer,' said a source. Thakre had an angiography last week after which he complained of chest pain and breathlessness. Tests showed that the arteries leading to the heart were blocked and a bypass surgery could be inevitable, according to sources. The operation may take place in March after the Assembly elections in Bihar and three other states. Thakre's biggest asset, said the sources, was his mobility which let him keep in constant touch with the BJP cadre all over the country. But after the operation, he would have to cut down on travelling. And although this is not mentioned as the main reason for a change of guard, there is a distinct feeling within the BJP that under Thakre the party has lost its identity to the government. The RSS had criticised him for the Chennai declaration which just stopped short of stating that the BJP was the NDA, and had no agenda other than the NDA's.k 'We need a person who can give the party its earlier image and reliability,' said an office-bearer. Many believe that despite his supposed organisational skills, Thakre could not appreciate the ground reality in complex states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and, instead, took the 'easy way out' by obliging leaders like Atal Behari Vajpayee. It was under his leadership that Kalyan Singh was dethroned and the BJP suffered some of its worst losses in strongholds like Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The last was Thakre's home state. Party sources felt that after the heady growth under L.K. Advani, Thakre lacked the 'dynamism and creativity' to build on it. He allowed it to bask in the 'reflected glory' of Vajpayee's personality. The BJP has its task cut out in choosing Thakre's successor. Two front-runners are senior vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy and general secretary M. Venkaiah Naidu. Both are from the south, an attribute the RSS-BJP feels will broaden the party's base. State units have been asked to enlist their primary members and set up the electoral colleges for choosing presidents and other office-bearers by February end. The state-level elections will take place between March 1 and May 7. Once the state-level electoral colleges are formed by the third week of May, the stage will be set for the election of Thakre's successor.