When it seemed almost certain that the RSS would have its way in installing Nitin Gadkari for a second term, it was also clear that Narendra Modi would be directing the 2014 electoral battle and that he would have his own team at the party central office as part of his campaign committee.
It was a foregone conclusion that Modi would overshadow Gadkari because the latter did not win glory for himself in his first term and did not have it in him to launch an aggressive campaign. Gadkari would not be able to stand up to Modi. Therefore, Gadkari would be the president and Modi would be the helmsman.
Modi will hit the first road-block with Rajnath Singh as the party president. He stands, of course, politically taller than Singh because he is a successful CM. Singh was chief minister of UP when the BJP lost the assembly polls in 2002, and he was party president when it lost the Lok Sabha polls in 2009. He is also not considered a political heavyweight in UP.
The difference between an unsuccessful Gadkari and an unsuccessful Singh is this: Singh is a seasoned politician by virtue of the fact that he comes from the Byzantine political society of UP where the upper castes, the Dalits and the OBCs and the Muslim minority, fight on an equal footing, and where he served as CM for a short period. Gujarat is not only a small state in comparison with UP, it is also less complex.
Singh will turn his insider knowledge of UP into his political capital in dealing with Modi. There is also the inescapable personality factor. Singh is a proud Thakur who will not like to be pushed around.
Despite these differences, it should be possible for the two war-horses, with different experiences, to work together. There is the common factor that the two have close RSS links.
Rajnath takes helm ‘at a difficult time’
At a hurriedly organised installation ceremony at the party headquarters, Rajnath Singh who emerged overnight as the alternative to Nitin Gadkari, took over as the new BJP president in the presence of senior party leaders, including LK Advani, senior leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and others at noon on Wednesday.
Advani, Singh and Gadkari spoke on the occasion.
Advani recalled the budding days of the BJP and how Atal Behari Vajpayee insisted on being a party with a difference by keeping it an incorruptible organisation. Advani said that there should be zero-tolerance towards corruption, which was ironical even as Gadkari had to opt out because of corruption charges. Gadkari sounded sour and defiant when he blamed the UPA government of trying to tarnish his image by framing cases, and asserted that he would clear his name.
Singh, in his acceptance speech, said that he was taking over at a difficult time and in unhappy circumstances. He was referring to the several state assembly elections that were due this year and the Lok Sabha poll next year on the one hand, and to his last minute elevation because of differences in the party over Gadkari’s second term.
Earlier in the morning, the central parliamentary board met and passed a resolution expressing its appreciation for Gadkari during his term as president. The resolution said, “The parliamentary board places on record its sense of deep appreciation for the leadership provided by Shri Nitin Gadkari to the party during his tenure as the president of the BJP.
Shri Gadkari’s dynamism, good work and open mindedness helped immensely in expanding the support base of the party. Shri Gadkari displayed qualities of an ideal karyakarta and was always available to party workers.”Later, returning officer Thanwar Chand Gehlot declared Rajnath Singh elected as president without contest.