BJP president Nitin Gadkari will begin his second term in office this January after his party has toasted to the results in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The decision was ratified at the Surajkhund conclave last week.
Gadkari's second term came about due to the inability of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological body of the BJP, as well as party leaders to think of an alternative name for the post ahead of the 2014 polls.
Even as critics – inside and outside the party – tear Gadkari apart for allegations ranging from his friendship with influential businessmen to his unwillingness to take on fellow-Marathi leaders of all hues, his uninterrupted tenure shows that the RSS-BJP blueprint for India's main opposition party is unchanged, say insiders.
"Gadkari was given the task of rebuilding the BJP from scratch, and this task is far from over. Hence, neither the RSS nor senior party leaders felt any absolute need to discontinue or disrupt his work," said a senior party leader in the know of events leading to the decision to amend the party constitution, incorporating a proviso that all office bearers can have two terms of three-year duration running consecutively.
Meanwhile, Gadkari's task – as both RSS and BJP aides say – still involves bringing fresh faces to the forefront. He is also required to enhance the BJP's voter base, adding at least 10% by reaching out to various sections of the society.Secondly, by burying his differences with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who is bound to play a bigger role at the national level next year, Gadkari has brought about a whole new equation. At the same time, he has continued to seek the counsel of senior leaders such as Rajnath Singh and accord due importance to veterans such as Murli Manohar Joshi.
"Gadkari has tried to end the impression that he is hard-headed and refuses to listen to others," said a BJP functionary. "By nature, he is rebellious. But he now realises that he needs to effect a better level of cooperation and interaction. He has to bridge the gap between Gadkari the person, and Gadkari the leader."
Though he seems to have mended fences with patriarch LK Advani, Gadkari's ties with Sushma Swaraj is still in course-correction mode. Gadkari has enabled the unveiling of a new synergy involving Modi, Rajya Sabha leader of opposition Arun Jaitley, and himself, say BJP insiders.
However, with the BJP refusing to declare its leader and PM candidate for 2014 polls, Gadkari's second term has not exactly created much enthusiasm in the BJP's ranks. Though the PM issue may not be resolved anytime soon, insiders say Modi is bound to emerge as the prominent choice.
"The younger cadres are an exasperated lot, and they are waiting for the promised reshuffle," said a BJP functionary.