Rajnath rejigs party, Modi returns to BJP parliamentary board (Roundup)

New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) Giving a clear message of the bigger role Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would play in the BJP’s preparations for the coming Lok Sabha polls, party chief Rajnath Singh Sunday re-inducted him into its top decision-making group, the parliamentary board.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief also sought to reinvigorate his team of office bearers by promoting some young faces and articulate parliamentarians.

The rejig by Rajnath Singh also saw Modi’s controversial aide Amit Shah and Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi being made general secretaries and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti a vice president.

Modi, the only chief minister in the parliamentary board, has also been made member of the central election committee and will have a role in candidate selection.

He comes back to the parliamentary board after about six years but in changed circumstances – amid demands from some sections that he be declared the prime ministerial candidate.

There are also indications that he would head the party’s campaign committee for the Lok Sabha polls.

Shah’s induction as general secretary is being seen in party circles as Modi’s influence. An accused in the Soharabuddin Sheikh and Tulsi Prajapati alleged staged shootout cases, he is a legislator from Naranpura in Gujarat.

Gandhi, 33, is the youngest general secretary. His appointment drew a sarcastic comment from party veteran Vinay Katiyar, who said: “Gandhi surname gets priority whether it is Congress or BJP.”

Congress leaders took a dig at BJP’s decision to induct Modi and Shah in the team of party’s central office-bearers and said Karnataka will be the “first test” of the opposition party’s new team.

The new team, which will take BJP through preparations of crucial assembly polls this year to five states and Lok Sabha polls due next year, includes 13 vice presidents, 10 general secretaries, 15 secretaries and seven spokespersons.

A BJP leader told IANS that the overhaul was “major” with “80 percent of appointees under 60 years of age and nearly 70 percent faces in the team being new”.

“Like Kamraj plan of Congress, it was the Rajnath plan of BJP,” he said.

According to party sources, the BJP was keen to connect with the aspiring class and deflate Congress campaign under its young vice president Rahul Gandhi.

The new vice-presidents — five of them women — include former Karnataka chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, former MPs S.S. Ahluwalia, Satpal Malik and Kiran Maheshwari, MPs Smriti Irani, Balbir Punj, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Prabhat Jha, former Punjab minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla and tribal leader Jual Oram.

Bangalore South MP Ananth Kumar and party leader from Odisha Dharamendra Pradhan have been retained as general secretaries though there was speculation about their continuation. Others include party MPs Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Thawarchand Gehlot, former party secretary Murlidhar Rao, former Himachal Pradesh minister J.P. Nadda and former MP Tapir Gaon. Ram Lal will be general secretary (organisation).

Party veterans Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh have not found a place in Rajnath’s team, while Najma Heptulla, Hema Malini and Shanta Kumar have also been dropped as vice presidents and Ravi Shankar Prasad, the party’s deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, as chief spokesman.

The new spokespersons include former MP Bizay Sonkar Shastri, Rajnath Singh’s political aide Sudhanshu Trivedi, lawyer Meenakshi Lekhi and former party secretary Capt Abhimanyu, while Prakash Javadekar, Shahnawaz Hussain and Nirmala Sitharaman will continue.

Poonam Mahajan, daughter of late party leader Pramod Mahajan, has been made a secretary.

The 12-member Central Parliamentary Board, headed by Rajnath Singh, includes Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar, Gehlot and Ram Lal, apart from Modi.

Commenting on the new team, Javadekar said: “Narendra Modi is one of the popular leaders of the country, and that is why he is in the parliamentary board.”

Naqvi said the new team was “balanced” and had been decided by Rajnath Singh after discussions with senior party leaders.

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