What should ideally have been an occasion for brainstorming and bringing all senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) together, turned out to be a tussle for power and influence. The recently-concluded BJP national executive meeting in Mumbai witnessed a split in the party’s leadership, as not all senior leaders were convinced party president Nitin Gadkari should get a consecutive term in office.
The tussle, which has continued since December 2009, when Gadkari took over as party president, came out in the open after senior leader L K Advani refused to attend the public rally in Mumbai. Sushma Swaraj, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, followed. The two senior leaders were unhappy about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)’s decision to give Gadkari a second term.
“A party changing its constitution to suit one person is a dangerous trend. The constitution was changed when Rajnath Singh got a three-year term, because till then, BJP presidents only had two-year terms. Now, the constitution has again been changed to allow Nitin Gadkari to continue in office for another three years till 2015,” said a senior BJP leader.
Sushma Swaraj is upset with Gadkari after the BJP denied a ticket to Jharkhand leader S S Ahluwalia, former deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, for a second term in the Upper House. Swaraj was also snubbed when she was made to retract her statement on the presidential election. She had revealed BJP’s cards when she publicly said the party would not agree on the names of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari.
After being in office for nearly three years, Gadkari has realised he should have a team of his own, not be bullied by party seniors. As a first step to this, Gadkari agreed to the resignation of Sanjay Joshi, former BJP general-secretary (organisation), from the national executive, to please Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Gadkari and Modi had started avoiding each other and had even stopped taking each other’s phone calls. Modi was upset after Joshi was brought back into the BJP and made a national executive member. To express his displeasure, Modi had skipped the party’s national executive meeting in Delhi last year.
By agreeing to Joshi’s resignation, Gadkari has managed to please not only Modi, but also former BJP president Rajnath Singh, as well as Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. Rajnath Singh was miffed with Joshi after the latter had blamed the former and other party leaders for making the BJP virtually irrelevant in Uttar Pradesh. Jaitley, a good friend of Modi, played a crucial role in the patch-up between Modi and Gadkari.
In an effort to assert his authority in the party, Gadkari is also forming his ‘own team’ to get the job done. Among the members of his team include general-secretary Dharmendra Pradhan, political secretary Vinay Sahastrabudhe, Jagat Prakash Nadda and Muralidhar Rao. Interestingly, all members in this team are from the RSS.
Gadkari has managed to make Nadda a member of the Rajya Sabha from Himachal Pradesh and has asked Muralidhar Rao to coordinate between state and central leaderships.
“Apart from members in the team of Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley are his crucial advisors. They have helped him solve the crisis in Karnataka and resolve the differences with Narendra Modi,” said a party leader.