Rajnath Singh took charge as BJP president on Wednesday but it was Nitin Gadkari’s shadow on the message that was sent out — the party was moving in a new direction where corrupt, unethical behaviour would not be tolerated.
LK Advani, who had bitterly opposed corruption-tainted Gadkari’s re-election, announced Rajnath’s elevation as a move of internal correction. “Among our prominent people, let not any dearth of honesty and morality be perceived… Rajnath Singh must foster the image that there will be no compromise with unethical behaviour,” he told party leaders. “We should prove this is a party with a difference and not a party of differences, as our opponents say.”
Advani also reminded Rajnath of the challenges ahead of him: using his credentials as a farmer leader to spread the BJP’s influence among rural voters, and reviving the party in his home state of Uttar Pradesh.
Rajnath, on his part, used the occasion to defend his predecessor — “the BJP stands by Gadkari” — and to reach out to the Sangh by rebuffing home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s comment on BJP and RSS involvement in ‘Hindu terror’. “The government wants to fuel communal tensions for votebank politics,” he said.
With the Gadkari chapter closed and a new CEO in place, BJP sources indicated the coming months would see greater involvement by senior leaders in preparations for the 2014 general elections and on the all-important decision on a prime ministerial candidate.
They also said that the RSS - in a break from the past, when it "micro-managed" BJP affairs - had indicated it would rely on senior leaders such as Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar as well as Rajnath to be the party's "anchors" and sort out all issues. Gujarat
CM Narendra Modi, overwhelming favourite to be PM candidate, would in all likelihood make the cut with Swaraj and Jaitley as "added attractions", they added.
Swaraj, Jaitely, Naidu and Ananth were involved in last-minute discussions on Tuesday to try and evolve “consensus” on Rajnath’s
name before Gadkari announced he was bowing out. Apparently, Modi was also involved in the process with one of the leaders discussing the issue with them.
Plans would also be set in motion for the state elections, the sources said. While the BJP may not be able to check its slide in Karnataka, which goes to polls in March, Vasundhara Raje was set to be made president of the party's Rajasthan unit and chief minister candidate for the polls due in December.