BJP chief Rajnath Singh’s remarks published in a newsmagazine has created a flutter, bringing back focus on the rivalry with the second-rank leaders in the party.
Singh was quoted by Outlook as saying that the RSS had a 70 per cent role in Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s removal in January this year from the party’s parliamentary board and his role was 30 per cent. In the removal of Arun Jaitley as BJP spokesperson, the decision was 50:50.
Singh’s aides said he had not been quoted correctly and some of the remarks had not been made at all. The BJP chief was upset with the published version but would not issue a formal denial. There was no immediate response from the RSS.
Jaitely refused to comment, saying that he had had read the interview but some BJP leaders were of the view that Modi would not take Singh’s remark against him lightly.
“Modi will wait till the assembly polls in Gujarat later this year before launching a counter attack,” said a BJP leader who thought the Chief Minister’s “continuing silence” as an indication of his passive anger against Singh.
Only ten days ago, Singh had made Jaitley, who is BJP general secretary, the election in-charge for Gujarat as desired by Modi who is facing a rebellion from some BJP MLAs.
Jaitley’s return to the state to supervise the polls was announced by Singh himself, indicating that Modi would get a free hand as before. The BJP chief was, however, quoted as saying in the interview that “it was quite clear that Jaitely wanted to work with Modi in Gujarat and I saw no reason to stop him.”
The Modi-Jaitley combination had worked successfully in the last polls held in 2002, five months after the Godhra riots.
Singh had made Jaitley in charge of Uttar Pradesh following the BJP’s drubbing in the assembly polls, and as a sign of improvement in their ties, the BJP chief even joined a brainstorming lunch session at Jaitely’s house earlier this month.
In January, when Modi was axed at the central level, Jaitley was made secretary of the parliamentary board and Ananth Kumar secretary of the central election committee. The late Pramod Mahajan had held both posts.
In the intervew, Singh was quoted as saying that “you only run down rivals. Jaitley has no rivals in the party and he never runs down his colleagues.”
As for Modi, Singh’s remarks, as published in the magazine, were “Modi is not the only politician who cuts down his rivals. Everyone does this in politics. Modi has his own style of human management.” An aide of Singh denied that he had ever said so.