Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi took the first big step towards larger national role on Sunday when he was elevated to the BJP's highest decision-making body after six years.Gujarat strongman’s aides, including his former home minister Amit Shah, who is battling several court cases, found a place in the team of office-bearers named by party chief Rajnath Singh.
Modi is the only CM to be nominated to the parliamentary board, clearly marking him out from competition — other party CMs Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh.
In his elevation, Rajnath has looked to balance the growing chorus among party cadre seeking bigger role for Modi with ally Janata Dal (U)’s sensibilities as also the various factions within the BJP.
So, while Shah, Modi’s confidante, has been named general secretary, another aide, Purushottam Rupala, has been dropped.
Balbir Punj, who as Gujarat in-charge said Modi would make an excellent PM, was promoted as vice-president. But, BJP insiders point out that Punj is close to LK Advani, who wanted an important post for him.
CP Thakur and Smriti Irani were among other leaders who broke with the party line to say Modi be named PM candidate. Both were made vice-presidents on Sunday.
Meenakshi Lekhi, inducted as an office-bearer and a spokesperson, is a known Modi loyalist. She had spiritedly defended the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Capital's Shri Ram College of Commerce in a TV debate with Congress veteran Mani Shankar Aiyar.
Party leaders, however, say the team is more of a balancing act than an all-out Modi affair. In picking his team, Rajnath has tried to keep leaders like Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley in good humour.