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Silent strategist JP Nadda rises to the helm in BJP, succeeds Amit Shah

Belonging to a Brahmin family from Himachal Pradesh, it was in Bihar where Nadda got his initial lessons in politics as a student leader of the ABVP.

Updated: Jan 20, 2020 17:43:01

By Amandeep Shukla, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

BJP working president JP Nadda waves at gathering during a program at party headquarters, in New Delhi, on Saturday. (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)

Soft-spoken, unassuming, yet resolute, 59-year-old BJP leader from Himachal Pradesh, Jagat Prakash Nadda, is a man known generally to maintain a low profile, but that has not stopped his ascent to the top in the boisterous world of Indian politics as he is takes over as the president of India’s ruling BJP.

Underneath a soft exterior, Nadda hides a doughty perseverance, an unflinching commitment to ideology and shrewd organizational skills that have ensured his rise, say party leaders who have seen him over the years.

In 2014, when the BJP led by Narendra Modi swept the national polls, many were surprised when Nadda’s name did the rounds for the top job in the party, which was then studded with stalwarts from Arun Jaitley to Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari.

Watch: JP Nadda elected BJP President unopposed; the challenges ahead 

The position, however, was bestowed on Amit Shah, who along with Modi had shot to national limelight after delivering a stunning 73 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.

Nadda joined the Union Cabinet and served as the Health Minister.

But in 2019, as Shah took over as the Union Home minister, there was little doubt that it was time for Nadda to come to the fore. He was appointed the BJP’s working president, a clear indication that the man who enjoys the confidence of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP’s ideological mentor RSS, Nadda is virtually the third most powerful in the present political set up.

On Monday, he was formally elected unopposed as the BJP president.

Belonging to a Brahmin family from Himachal Pradesh, it was in Bihar where Nadda got his initial lessons in politics as a student leader of the ABVP. Nadda’s father N L Nadda was an academic who also became a vice chancellor of the Patna University.

In his biodata on the website of Rajya Sabha of which he is a member, Nadda says he “was inspired by the JP Movement to join the Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti” and then associated with the ABVP and BJP’s youth wing Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha, which he also went on to head. Nadda mentions that he was detained for 45 days for leading a campaign for upgrading schools.

Not born into a political family, Nadda married into one. His wife Mallika Nadda is the daughter of a former Jabalpur Member of Parliament Jayshree Banerjee. Interestingly, while Nadda went on to take up politics like his mother-in-law, his wife like his father has pursued academics.

Nadda has a Law degree from Himachal Pradesh. It was in the northern hill state where Nadda made his electoral debut getting elected to the state Assembly from the Bilaspur seat in 1993. He won this seat several times after and went on to become a state minister for forest, environment, science and technology.

Party leaders say a combination of all these factors has helped Nadda gain keen insights.

“From cutting his teeth in the caste cauldron of Bihar as a student politician, to being the son-in-law of a prominent political family of Madhya Pradesh, a state with strong RSS hold, to having been a minister and leader of opposition in the high hills of Himachal, his experience from the beginning has been quite diverse. He is a silent strategist,” said a senior BJP leader.

And Nadda put all this to use, when Shah assigned him the responsibility to helm the party’s efforts in Uttar Pradesh for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Aided by BJP leader from Gujarat Gordhan Zadaphia, Nadda delivered. BJP and its allies mustered a formidable 64 of the 80 seats ensuring a comfortable repeat as the Centre.

However, not all electoral battles are the same and Nadda has to fill the big shoes of the highly successful Shah. The battle immediately staring Nadda in the face is the Delhi Assembly election where Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party appears to be retaining its grip over the voters. Not unaware, Nadda has been touring multiple constituencies on a daily basis getting a first-hand assessment of the party’s strengths and weaknesses.

“He is about commitment and hardwork. We are going to see more of this,” said the party leader quoted above.

Among other things, Nadda is said to have an interest in swimming during school days. He is father to two sons.


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