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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Rajnath in US: is BJP chief in race for the top slot?

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 20, 2013
First Published: 19:34 IST(20/7/2013) | Last Updated: 08:44 IST(21/7/2013)

A few hours after he unveiled the BJP team for 2014 polls with Gujarat strongman Narendra Modi at the head, Rajnath Singh left for the US for a week-long trip in his capacity as the president of the main opposition party.

In fact, a sense of urgency underscored the release of names of the team members because of his itinerary, prompting BJP insiders to ask why Singh attached so much importance to his visit to the US in an election year.

Even though Singh has consistently held that he was not running for any office after proclaiming Modi as the face of BJP, his backers have not ruled out a scenario in which he emerges equally an important player like Sushma Swaraj or even LK Advani.

His visit to the US, in that context, was an important event, they held, considering the possibility of  the BJP's numbers not being comfortable enough for Modi to be easily sworn in as the prime minister of the next government after the next election.

Singh's maiden trip will see him present his party's view on the situation in Afghanistan at a conference besides meeting a host of lawmakers, business leaders, think tanks and noted Indian Americans.

Singh's trip to US comes immediately after high profile visits of union finance minister P Chidambaram, union commerce minister Anand Sharma and deputy chairman of planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

The BJP's chief key-note address is on "India, Afghanistan and Regional Security" which is scheduled for July 23 at the historic Rayburn House Building of the US Capitol, organised by the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS-USA).

The conference will also be addressed among others by former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, Ajit Doval, former director of the Intelligence Bureau, and Pakistan's Mehran Baloch, a rebel Baloch leader, and Senge Serin, president of the Institute of Gilgit Baltistan Studies.

The groundwork for the US trip was laid on March 25 when US ambassador to India Nancy J Powell called on Singh to discuss a range of political issues including the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.

Singh raised the spectre in Afghanistan after US and other NATO troops withdrew from Afghanistan. The BJP chief conveyed to the US envoy about the security concerns for India in the event of a Taliban-friendly dispensation taking charge of Kabul.

Singh is accompanied by Ananth Kumar,BJP general secretary , Sudhanshu Trivedi, his political aide, and Vijay Jolly, convenor of BJP Overseas Affairs. RSS national executive member Ram Madhav is said to played a key role in fixing his appointments in the US.

Chicago businessman Shalabh Kumar, who had organised for some members of the US Congress to travel to Gujarat to meet Modi, will be host to some of Singh's dinner engagements.  In New York, Singh is scheduled to address the Indian American community at an event organised by TV Asia channel.


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