In yet another reshuffle, BJP president Rajnath Singh gave a new responsibility to Arun Jaitley, the seniormost general secretary, the overall charge of Uttar Pradesh where the party is yet to recover from the drubbing it got in the assembly polls recently.
Jaitley described the assignment as “a new challenge and an opportunity” to turn the BJP’s fortunes ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2009.
Singh’s decision came after discussions with Jaitley over the last few days, with the latter finally agreeing to take up the work in what many BJP leaders said was the “toughest” task, given the state of the party.
“The more difficult the assignment, the more challenging it is,” said Jaitley, discounting speculations within the party that Singh was settling scores with him by handing a tough job.
Jaitley said he did not share the perception that Singh had given him the new assignment to “fix” him. “I look at it as an opportunity to turn the fortunes of BJP in that state which has 80 Lok Sabha seats,” said Jaitley after the announcement of the changes. “We got less than what we expected in the assembly polls. UP has got a good organisation, a good leadership that has experience and the right mix to follow an aggressive politics.”
Asked if he would get a free hand as he had got to turn BJP’s prospects in the polls in Punjab, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, Jaitley said, “I am not looking for a free hand. In fact, I don’t need one.”
He said, “Nobody has it either. There are a galaxy of leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Murli Manohar Joshi and Kalyan Singh. We will work in consultations with everyone. A party’s victory or loss is not because of an individual.”
In other reshuffles, the BJP chief made Ananth Kumar as ‘prabhari’ of Madhya Pradesh while appointing senior party leader Yashwant Sinha as in-charge of Karnataka. Sahib Singh Verma was asked to take charge of Punjab and Chandigarh. Om Mathur was retained to look after Gujarat where polls are due later this year.
V K Malhotra, who was in-charge of Delhi, where the party won the municipal elections, was replaced by Thawar Chand Gehlot. Bihar went to veteran Kalraj Mishra, who shed Rajasthan in favour of Maharashtra leader Gopinath Munde.
Ravi Shankar Prasad was shifted from Uttarakhand to Tamil Nadu. Haryana was handed over to secretary Vijay Goel while vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was made permanent in-charge of election management.
Amitabh Sinha returned to the BJP set-up as convenor of the intellectual cell, and Siddharth Nath Singh was given charge of Nagaland.