BJP president Rajnath Singh ended his ambivalence on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s role for the 2014 polls by inducting his closest aide Amit Shah as in-charge of Uttar Pradesh.
The entry of Shah means that Singh has fully entrusted to Modi the revival of BJP’s fortunes in UP that sends the maximum number of 80 MPs to Parliament, BJP sources said. The party currently has only 10 MPs.
With the entry of Shah, who was recently made BJP general secretary, Modi is set to plunge into full scale management of the party’s strategy and management in the most challenging state, which had in 1998 sent 50 BJP MPs to Lok Sabha.
Eventually, Modi will move into the centre-stage when he is made chairman of the BJP’s campaign committee. A formal announcement of his name as PM candidate will depend on factors close to the 2014 polls, BJP sources said.
Although Singh’s decision to entrust UP to Shah could ruffle feathers particularly those of LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj who are opposed to Modi, the BJP chief made up his mind after assessing that ultimately Modi is the answer to BJP’s USP and cadres’ quest for a strong prime ministerial face.
Shah’s foray also will mean a complete withdrawal from the scene of Modi’s bete noire, Sanjay Joshi, who had looked after UP affairs under Singh in his earlier tenure and under Nitin Gadkari who quit in January. Joshi’s removal was one of the conditions set by Modi for his agreeing to play a greater role under a deal with Singh’s predecessor Nitin Gadkari in May last year.
By deciding to go with Modi, Singh also has set his eyes on winning for BJP at least 40 parliamentary though BJP managers say the party should look at a target of 25 seats. The Congress in 2009 won a surprising 21 seats but failed to register an impressive win in the assembly polls in 2011.
A record haul of seats from UP will be feather in his cap and catapult his own chances for the top slot, Singh feels. Also, in the assessment of key BJP leaders, only UP can compensate for losses in Karnataka that gave 19 seats in 2009. The Congress, which swept the state elections there recently, has aimed at winning 20 seats from Karnataka.
As former home minister of Gujarat, Shah, who is on bail in the Soharabuddin encounter case under investigation by the CBI, is known for his organisational skills.
Some BJP strategists say the UPA government could target Shah again through CBI to ‘neutralise’ him, and thereby Modi, which could be the new challenge for the party.
Singh also announced a programme implementation panel under BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who will play a key role, along with Nadda, Bhupendra Yadav, Shyam Jajju and Sudashu Trivedi.
Other appointments include Ananth Kumar who retains Madhya Pradesh, Kaftan Singh (Rajasthan), and JP Nadda (Chattisgarh). Party general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan will be in charge of Bihar under the guidance of Arun Jaitely, who enjoys rapport with Bihar CM.
The in-charge for Delhi would be decided later in consultation with senior leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely.
Newly appointed general secretaries Varun Gandhi and Muralidhar Rao were given charge of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu respectively. Smriti Irani and SS Ahluwalia, who were made new vice-presidents, were asked to look after Goa and Assam respectively. BJP vice-president Prabha Jha will look after Andhra Pradesh.
The all-important central media cell will remain with Shrikant Sharma, who has been associated with it since 2006 and more directly as in-charge since 2009.