JP Nadda picked a new BJP team comprising 12 vice-presidents, eight general secretaries, three joint secretaries, and 13 secretaries on September 26, nearly eight months after he replaced Amit Shah as the party’s national president.
The new team has approximately 60 percent new faces with representation from poll-bound states of Bihar, West Bengal and Kerala in key roles, clearly indicating a focus on the upcoming assembly polls.
What is even more significant in the rejig is that it left out names of senior leaders, including Ram Madhav and P Muralidhar Rao, triggering speculation that these leaders might be accommodated in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet in the soon-to-happen reshuffle or in the BJP’s Parliamentary Board - the party’s highest decision-making body.
Madhav looked after Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and the northeast. Muralidhar Rao worked in the south, helping the party's expansion along with BL Santosh who is general secretary.
Former Chhattisgarh chief minister (CM) Raman Singh, former CM of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje, former CM of Jharkhand Raghubar Das, and party spokesperson Baijayant Jay Panda have been appointed as the new national vice-presidents of the party.
The other new vice-presidents include Mukul Roy, who switched from All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) in West Bengal, and AP Abdullakutty, the leader from Kerala who joined the BJP from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) recently.
Both West Bengal and Kerala are going to the polls next year.
Roy’s appointment did not go down well with the BJP leadership in West Bengal. Rahul Sinha, who was dropped as general secretary, posted a video to express his disappointment.
“For 40 years I have served the BJP as a soldier. I have to step aside because a Trinamool Congress leader is coming - there can be nothing more unfortunate than this reward for serving the BJP since birth," Sinha said in the video posted on Twitter.
Sinha was replaced as general secretary by Anupam Hazra, also a former AITC leader, like Roy.
There are reports of friction in Kerala too over the appointment of AP Abdullakutty as national vice-president. Here too, sources said, the complaint from local BJP leaders is that the outsiders were being promoted while ignoring those who have been working for the party for long.
Experts said the new team hinted towards both, long-term and short-term goals of the party.
“There is a representation from West Bengal which is going to polls next year and where the party has had expansion in recent times. Then there is a representation from Kerala which is also going to polls next year, but has absolutely no BJP presence. I see both short- and long-term goals in the reshuffle,” Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) told Moneycontrol.
The new team has 11 leaders from Uttar Pradesh which is going to polls in 2022, perhaps a long-term target. Former finance minister of the state Rajesh Agarwal has been made treasurer of the party, while MP Rekha Verma is among 12 vice-presidents.
The list of eight general secretaries, a crucial position in the party as they serve as the link between the state and the central leadership, has five new faces - Dushyant Kumar Gautam, Daggubati Purandeswari, CT Ravi, Tarun Chugh and Dilip Saikia
Bhupender Yadav, Arun Singh and Kailash Vijayvargiya have been retained.
“I am confident they will uphold the glorious tradition of our party of serving the people of India selflessly and with dedication. May they work hard to empower the poor and marginalised,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his congratulatory message to the new team on Twitter.
Among other significant decisions, Amit Malviya continues as the IT cell head of the party. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, who had called the BJP IT cell “rogue”, had been demanding his removal.
A day after the rejig, Swamy dragged the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) into his ongoing row with Malviya.
“Now that Malviya has been re-appointed, I have this to say: My earlier tweet was to test whether Malviya financed fake ID tweets on his own or not. Now it is clear. PMO Haren Joshi (sic) was behind it. I have written to the PM two weeks or so ago bringing this to his notice with documents,” Swamy said in one of the tweets on September 27.
Tejasvi Surya, firebrand MP of the party from Karnataka, has been made president of the youth wing replacing Poonam Mahajan. Anil Baluni, also an MP, has retained his post as media head while being elevated as the chief spokesperson of the BJP.
The party has also expanded its list of spokespersons to 23.
“It is only possible in the BJP that young talent is promoted rather than kept on the waiting list like other parties do,” Surya, 29, told reporters in New Delhi on September 27.
Party leaders said the new team had representation from across the country. “There is a leader from each region of the country,” said a BJP leader who did not want to be named.
Senior leaders Uma Bharati, Om Mathur, Anil Jain, Saroj Pandey.Vinay Sahastrabhuddhe, Shyam Jaju and Avinash Rai Khanna could not make it to the new team.
Bharti had recently defended NCP chief Sharad Pawar when she said his statement was against Lord Ram and not against PM Modi. Pawar had said that some people think Coronavirus can be eradicated by building a temple.