With the top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership elevating Rajya Sabha MP and senior leader from Hoshiarpur Avinash Rai Khanna as the national vice-president on Wednesday, the internal political equations within the Punjab unit of the party are set to change.
Presently serving as in-charge of the party unit in Jammu and Kashmir, Khanna has also served as Punjab BJP president.Interestingly, he was eyeing second term with the incumbent Punjab BJP chief Kamal Sharma’s tenure ending in January next year.
After the BJP received a thumping majority in the Lok Sabha elections in May last year, Khanna, being a senior party functionary from Punjab, was eyeing the ministerial birth in the Modi government.
But he faced disappointment with the party picking Khanna’s aide and first-time Hoshiapur MP Vijay Sampla as the minister of state to woo the Dalit voters in Punjab, particularly the Doaba region which has a sizeable Scheduled Caste presence.
In party circles, Khanna’s promotion is seen as the balancing act as in previous organisational announcements, the party had chosen Tarun Chugh as the national secretary. Chugh has his inclination with Kamal Sharma group who was having major say in the state.
Khanna’s supporters are claiming that his elevation as the national vice-president has strengthened their group at the national level and is second stamp on their increasing clout after Sampla, who admits Khanna as his political guru, was made union minister.
An active Member of Parliament having strong RSS background, Khanna, who started his political journey as ordinary worker, earns great honour in general masses for his active approach for raising ground level political issues of Punjab. He has also represented Hoshiapur Parliament in Lok Sabha and had remained MLA form Garshankar segment.
Being in-charge of a sensitive state like Jammu and Kashmir, Khanna is credited with playing a key role for the BJP during assembly polls where the saffron party gave its best ever performance.
In his first tenure as Punjab BJP chief as well, the party base had touched a new heights when the BJP bagged 19 out of 23 assembly seats in 2007 assembly polls.
“I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief Amit Shah and the senior leadership of the party for giving me this responsibility. It’s an honour for all Punjabis and my fellow party workers,” said Khanna from Srinagar.