In his first interview after taking over as president of the BJP, Nitin Gadkari (52) said senior leaders who had left the organisation — such as Uma Bharati, Govindacharya and Kalyan Singh — should be brought back in the larger interest of the party.
“Each one of them played a key role in the growth of the organisation. It is not a bad idea to bring them back,” he said.
Gadkari, who took over from outgoing BJP president Rajnath Singh on Saturday, returned to a huge welcome in his hometown Nagpur on Sunday.
He admitted that getting these leaders back into the party will not be easy. All the three he named had left on bitter terms.
"It can only happen if they express regret for their past actions, and our other leaders and various state units agree they should be taken back,” Gadkari said.
Roping in Dalits
Gadkari has major plans for the party. “I would like to involve more Dalits, tribals and Muslims in the BJP,” he said. “I would like to concentrate on the youth, workers and farmers. I will continue my politics of development at the national level.”
In a gesture heavy with symbolism, Gadkari took care to garland a statue of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on his way to the city from the airport.
He was also clear that initially, he would prefer to stay away from electoral politics. “I won’t contest elections to the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha for the next three years,” he said.
“I’ll concentrate only on the organisation.”
Changing BJP’s image
Gadkari is also keen to change the BJP’s image, one which, “the media has created unnecessarily”, he said. “It is a huge task but I’m confident,” he said. “I’ve delivered results whenever I’ve taken up a challenge.”
The BJP has been dogged by controversies ever since it lost the last Lok Sabha in May.
The three leaders Gadkari wants to bring back were all once heavyweights in the party. Uma Bharti, 50, belongs to the backward Lodh community, played a key role in the Ayodhya agitation and was Madhya Pradesh chief minister in 2004.
Kalyan Singh, 77, also a backward classes leader, was chief minister of UP thrice between 1991 and 1999, in which year he left the BJP but returned before the Lok Sabha elections in 2004. He left the party again in January 2009, citing neglect.
Govindacharya, 66, joined the RSS in his student days in the early 1960s. He joined the BJP in 1988 and was its general secretary till 2000, when, after differences with top leaders, he decided to withdraw from politics. Gadkari said he would reveal his plans at a press conference in Delhi on December 24.