A day after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh denied it was against four central leaders from becoming the next BJP chief, Sushma Swaraj said she turned down an offer from the party to take up that post.
She did so because Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani had already chosen her to be his deputy in the Lok Sabha, setting the succession line-up in Parliament.
Though she would not want to think about when she would succeed Advani in his role, “I didn’t want to say I am interested in party work when he had appointed me as his deputy.”
Seeking to clear the air, Swaraj said BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar had met her sometime ago about the proposal to make her as the party chief. “But, I conveyed to him that, since Advani had selected me to be his deputy, I would prefer to work in Parliament, which is also an important role to serve the party.”
RSS prachar pramukh Manmohan Vaidya on Wednesday issued a statement to say the Sangh was not against the “Delhi Four” leaders — Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar — as made out by a section of the media but “rather had cordial relations with them.”
Responding to questions on the RSS disclaimer, Swaraj said the Sangh had to clarify because of “unwarranted” media reports that knives were out for the four senior leaders, “which was absolutely baseless.”
Asserting that Vaidya was right in saying that the Sangh had not pushed for anyone to be the next BJP chief, Swaraj said the name of Nitin Gadkari as the successor to outgoing chief Rajnath Singh was first mooted within the party, and then seconded by the RSS, after other names were discussed.
She said, just as she had been appointed as the deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Arun Jaitley had taken over as the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. Venkaiah Naidu had already served as BJP president once. As for Ananth Kumar, his name had not come up for discussion. Narendra Modi and other BJP chief ministers were ruled out because they were not to be disturbed from their CM posts.
Swaraj asserted that Gadkari would not face any problem in handling BJP affairs as “senior leaders will always be available for counsel and guidance.”
Swaraj’s remarks indicated that the party leaders, including the four leaders, were ready and reconciled for the transition under Gadkari — after the RSS clarified the issue concerning them.