Women, Dalits may get boost in BJP’s party rejig; new role for Anurag Thakur

  • Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 09, 2016 00:57 IST
BJP leader Anurag Thakur, who is also the BCCI chief, has had terms as the party’s youth wing chief. (PTI)

The BJP is gearing up for big-bang changes in its organisation this month with likely focus on inducting more women and Dalit members into the party’s top leadership with an eye on upcoming assembly elections next year.

The party’s young wing is likely to get a new chief as newly elected cricket board president Anurag Thakur is expected to be relieved after three successful terms.

Poonam Mahajan, an MP from Mumbai, and Saharanpur MP Raghav Lakhanpal are among the frontrunners to replace Thakur, who may get a promotion in the party.

“Primary discussion about the new team has happened. A fresh consultation is expected after PM Modi returns on July 11,” a BJP functionary said.

BJP leaders hint that the change in party structure could be as significant as this week’s cabinet reshuffle that threw up big surprises as prominent ministers such as Smriti Irani were moved or demoted.

This means that underperformers will be shown the door and “high-flyers” grounded, they explained. The reshuffle has also focussed on inducting leaders from the Dalit community that makes up a crucial chunk of votes in poll-bound states.

“He encouraged leaders to step out of the drawing room. Some took lessons, some didn’t. Those who didn’t would be shown the door,” a source said.

The changes are expected to bolster the BJP as it readies for a clutch of state polls next year, including Uttar Pradesh, where it is hoping to defeat two regional outfits that have alternated power in the politically crucial state for more than a decade.

Shah’s current team has no Dalit member and too few scheduled tribe leaders. Women, who are supposed to comprise a third of the team as mandated by the party constitution, are also underrepresented. The BJP chief is expected to address these anomalies in the new team by inducting fresh faces.

Big changes are expected among the party’s seven general secretaries and 10 vice-presidents, many of whom have never contested elections and are said to have clung on to their regional power networks instead of adopting a national view.

Five of seven serving general secretaries haven’t ever contested an election. At least five out of 10 vice-presidents are from the Rajya Sabha for which no direct election is held.

Shah got re-elected to the top BJP post in January but continues with his old team of 10 vice-presidents, seven general secretaries and 16 secretaries, in addition to a treasurer and five RSS pracharaks assisting him in organisational matters.

He was expected to declare his team before the change in the council of minister but the announcement was withheld after the PM suggested the BJP needs serious reorganisation, sources said.

Former Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda is likely to get an assignment and so is former Karnataka deputy chief minister R Ashok. Party vice-president BS Yeddyurappa, who also now heads the Karnataka BJP, is set to be relieved of his national assignment.

Former junior minister for human resource development Ram Shankar Katheria, former Punjab party chief Kamal Sharma, Uttarakhand leader Dhan Singh Rawat are among the probables to be inducted into Shah’s team.

Controversial RSS leader Suresh Soni, who was replaced with Sangh’s joint general secretary Krishna Gopal for coordination with the BJP, is also likely to return in an informal role to oversee party matters.

Shah has spent almost two years as party chief – he took over from Rajnath Singh in July 2014 – and has a firsthand assessment of his colleagues by now. He is also in a strong position after the BJP’s historic victory in Assam and improved showing in Kerala and West Bengal earlier this year.

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