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HindustanTimes Thu,24 Apr 2014

Senior leaders set for BJP Team 2014 call

Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 17, 2013
First Published: 22:09 IST(17/7/2013) | Last Updated: 02:48 IST(18/7/2013)

Narendra Modi may be the face of BJP's campaign for the 2014 polls but other senior leaders of the party are also set to get important election roles as part of a plan that may be unveiled on Thursday.

Instead of a senior BJP team "under" Modi, the blueprint envisages each of the top leaders heading a "zonal election panel" for a particular region.

This, the calculation goes, will head off rivalries between them and any attempt to take down Modi, a polarising figure but wildly popular with the rank and file.

"Every hand will have a task to accomplish even as Modi leads an aggressive campaign against the Congress," said a key party strategist.

Read more: Dash of Hindutva to BJP campaign

The names under discussion between Modi and BJP chief Rajnath Singh as of late on Wednesday included Sushma Swaraj (eastern zone), Arun Jaitley (west), Venkaiah Naidu (south) and Nitin Gadkari for the north zone including Delhi, which goes to the polls in November.

Also, senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi will head a committee that will draft the BJP's manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls. He may be assisted by other prominent elders from the Vajpayee government between 1998 and 2004, namely Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh.

A panel headed by BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi will look into the nitty-gritty of the campaign and election tours of Modi and other leaders. Naqvi already heads the programme implementation and coordination committee, while BJP treasurer Piyush Goel handles "resource management."

There are also plans to have committees to handle youth, publicity and social media campaigns. "The idea is to have a team that is a blend of experienced hands and young minds to electrify the campaign," said a BJP leader.

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If the details of these committees are finalised by the time the BJP parliamentary board meets on Thursday, they may be announced after all top leaders including patriarch LK Advani have given their consent. 

BJP insiders said RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has already blessed such a plan, emphasizing on the need for everyone to work together, and ensure seniors like Advani do not feel ignored.

Recently, Bhagwat and other RSS leaders engaged Advani, Joshi and Rajnath Sngh on detailed ways to ensure the party projected a united face.

A summary of the Sangh's views on the issues, which came up in those discussions, were conveyed to Modi when he met Bhagwat on Tuesday.

Given the recent tension within the BJP caused by Advani's opposition to Modi's elevation, the Gujarat strongman had sought to show that he was not looking for a new team but would be working with the BJP's existing office-bearers who were picked by Rajnath in March after he took over from Gadkari in January.

Modi has been involved in detailed planning involving 10 general secretaries: Ananth Kumar, Amit Shah, Varun Gandhi, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Dharmendra Pradhan, Thawarchand Gehlot, Jagat Prakash Nadda, Tapir Gao, P Muralidhar Rao and Ram Lal.

Modi, named by Rajnath as BJP's campaign head on June 9, had during his interaction with BJP leaders in Bihar, Maharashtra and Odisha asked them to focus on an aggressive campaign against Congress rule and ways to ensure the BJP's return to power -- instead of projecting anyone, including him, as the party's PM candidate.

"Who will lead the party after elections is not important for us at this stage. Now our priority should be to ensure return of BJP to power," he told a select gathering of Odisha BJP leaders at a hotel in Puri on Tuesday.

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