Crisis in BJP as Jaitley skips meet
As if the shock of a major ally, the Biju Janata Dal, parting company with it last week was not enough, the BJP was gripped by a serious internal crisis on Friday, which raised questions about its ability to put up an effective political challenge, with the Lok Sabha elections barely a month away.india Updated: Mar 14, 2009 00:08 IST
As if the shock of a major ally, the Biju Janata Dal, parting company with it last week was not enough, the BJP was gripped by a serious internal crisis on Friday, which raised questions about its ability to put up an effective political challenge, with the Lok Sabha elections barely a month away.
Upset over an arbitrary appointment made by BJP president Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, senior BJP general secretary and also chief strategist for the elections, stayed away from a key meeting of the party’s top panel to select candidates for the coming polls.
Jaitley was furious at Singh having nominated Sudhanshu Mittal, a former aide of the late Pramod Mahajan, as the BJP’s additional in-charge for the Northeast.
Jaitley told BJP leaders who tried to resolve the crisis that nothing short of Mittal’s appointment being cancelled would satisfy him. He was backed by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who too has had his differences with Rajnath Singh in the past.
Singh remained equally adamant, maintaining that Mittal had been awarded his new position following the vital role he had played in sewing up the alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad.
Sources close to him said Jaitley objected to Mittal for two reasons: his questionable background, as well as the fact that his appointment was made without consulting the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, Lal Krishna Advani.
Indeed the sources claimed, many BJP leaders learnt of Mittal’s appointment, announced on March 6, through the media.
They insisted that Jaitley’s response was the culmination of his annoyance with a series of things Rajnath Singh had been doing, which in Jaitley’s view encouraged factionalism and the use of money power to influence decisions.
They clarified, however, that Jaitley had no intention of quitting the party. Though he did stay away from one important meeting on Friday, he did attend others – including the one at Advani’s residence where the seat sharing pact with the Janata Dal (U) in Bihar was sealed, as well as another where nominees for key states including Delhi were finalized.
In turn, sources close to Rajnath Singh pointed out that the BJP president had not objected when Jaitley inducted some of his own favourites into the party, including people who had criticized the BJP earlier in print.
“He is upset that Jaitley, such a senior leader, should resort to this kind of protest at a time when we should be projecting an image of unity,” the source said.