Maharashtra state chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Nitin Gadkari, 52, has emerged as a strong contender to succeed party president Rajnath Singh, when Singh’s term ends this year.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat threw his weight behind Gadkari during the final round of parleys with senior leaders on the naming of the next BJP chief.
A former public works department minister in the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra, Gadkari hails from Nagpur, headquarters of the RSS, the party’s ideological parent body.
In the capital on Thursday, Gadkari met BJP leaders, particularly general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal.
“I am willing to undertake whatever assignment is given to me,” was all he said. He denied that his visit had to do with the leadership issue.
Gadkari’s name hasn’t exactly fuelled excitement among party leaders.
Advani and other senior leaders have tried to convince the RSS chief that Gadkari’s insufficient experience outside Maharashtra won’t help the party at a time the BJP has to literally rise from the ashes.
Arguing in Gadkari’s favour, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has made it clear that the Sangh’s preference was for a new face — rather than a big name from among the “Delhi-centric” leaders.
Bhagwat would like Advani and senior BJP leaders to give a serious thought to the RSS’ suggestion.
Gadkari’s name had first cropped up along with that of Goa BJP leader Mohan Parrikar when Bhagwat discussed the issue with BJP leaders in August.
By pressing for changes in the BJP’s top echelon, the RSS chief has signalled that the Sangh is more concerned about the party organisation than its parliamentary wing.
A top RSS leader said: “Advani’s exit as Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha is not as big an issue for us as much as getting grip of the BJP by ensuing the appointment of a head of its choice.”