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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Close RSS ties propel Rajnath to BJP top slot

Vikas Pathak, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 23, 2013
First Published: 00:44 IST(23/1/2013) | Last Updated: 00:46 IST(23/1/2013)

Some claimed he would lose the Ghaziabad Lok Sabha seat in 2009, but he proved his detractors wrong and won handsomely.

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More than three years later, the burly Thakur from east UP is set to spring an even greater surprise.

Former BJP president Rajnath Singh seems set to be back at the helm in the party, after Nitin Gadkari, whose re-election was widely considered as settled, opted out in the wake of charges of business irregularities against him.

Singh, who has also been a Union minister and Uttar Pradesh chief minister earlier, is known to be on good terms with the RSS. The same cannot be said about his relations with BJP patriarch LK Advani.

Singh sees himself as a farmers' leader and remembers his days as the agriculture minister under the Vajpayee government, often talking about his contribution in reducing interest on farmers' loans.

With Singh, the BJP goes back to a leader with earthy ways. Traditional in his public speeches, he often asks villagers whether there is enough electricity for the tired farmer to be able to see his wife's face after a hard day's work.

The crowd often applauds. And when he asks questions, the crowd also responds with a chorus.

Singh's return would mark the re-emergence of the upper caste leader from the Hindi heartland at the BJP's helm. However, Rajnath is also adept at social engineering.

As UP chief minister, he tried to carve out quotas for the most backward castes as also the weakest castes among Dalits.

The latter move got struck down by a Supreme Court judgment. The idea — thus aborted — was to make inroads into sections of Dalits, Mayawati's core base, and MBCs.

But he has had his share of controversies too. Jaswant Singh was chucked out of the party for writing a book on Jinnah.

A greater role for businessman Sudhanshu Mittal saw opposition from Arun Jaitley just before the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

Singh temporarily enrolled controversial former IAS officer Neera Yadav in the party.

He also had differences with Vasundhara Raje and Kalyan Singh — he however is believed to have met Kalyan Singh recently — and his detractors say the party lost UP under him.

To be fair, the party is down in UP even after him.

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