JP Nadda takes over the reins of BJP; Delhi, Bihar polls cut out as first task
Nadda, 59, will also have the task of building bridges with the allies, some of whom have made their differences public, particularly after the oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, ended its alliance with the BJP to form the government in Maharashtra with the Nationalist Congress Party and Congress last year.Updated: Jan 21, 2020 05:54 IST
The transition that took place with Jagat Prakash Nadda’s elevation as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president will be closely watched for several reasons with the key among them being the selection of his new team and how the party will do in the assembly elections in Delhi next month and Bihar months later.
The term of Nadda’s predecessor, Amit Shah, who became the BJP’s youngest president, ended in January 2019. But he continued to hold the position as the organisational elections in the states, a prerequisite for the new national president’s selection, had not been concluded. The party under Shah saw a surge in its membership and made inroads into states like Assam beyond its traditional bastions. Shah wielded control and oversaw every aspect from the membership drive to the BJP’s election strategy.
Nadda’s role will be closely watched when the BJP is trying hard to fend off accusations of fostering polarisation. The protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the proposed National Register of Citizens and faltering economy are issues that confront the party. The issues are expected to have electoral ramifications in state elections in West Bengal and Bihar. The BJP hopes to wrest power from the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and to retain it with ally Janata Dal (United) in Bihar. The state elections are crucial for the party following a string of losses in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan in 2018 and Jharkhand last month.
Nadda, 59, will also have the task of building bridges with the allies, some of whom have made their differences public, particularly after the oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, ended its alliance with the BJP to form the government in Maharashtra with the Nationalist Congress Party and Congress last year.
“Working as a national president requires working with a broader perspective, and diverse regional political interest groups. The north is different from the northeast, the west from the south. So, that will be a challenge facing the new president,” said Milind Awad, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
BJP functionaries HT spoke to said Nadda will bring with him organisational skills he honed first as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) general secretary and later as a key BJP functionary in Himachal Pradesh. He will follow Shah’s template for growth, but will have a working style that will set him apart, they added.
“Nadda is a hard-working, patient and affable personality. He keeps a low profile, but is proficient in skills required for leading an organisation based on ideology yet still made up of diverse people. His style of functioning will not be overshadowed by that of his predecessors,” said a party leader familiar with Nadda’s style.
While comparisons are inevitable, party leaders said, they are expecting Nadda, who was first appointed as the party’s working president in June 2019, to continue the processes established by the “[Prime Minister Narendra] Modi-Shah duo”.
“It is the Prime Minister and Shah who galvanised workers and led the party to its current position. Nadda will complement the duo. It will be a successful troika. Modi with his mass appeal, Shah with his tough decision making and Nadda with his grip on organisational affairs will steer the party,” said a second functionary.
The reappointment of several state unit presidents, who were appointed during Shah’s tenure, is being perceived as an indication that his writ will continue to run.
BJP leader Murlidhar Rao said the party will make the most of the gains made under Shah and added there will be collaborative efforts between the old and the new guard to keep the party’s momentum going.
“Shah had a free hand for five years and it was under his watch that party won several state elections and the last  Lok Sabha polls. For the new president, his...experience and tremendous know-how will be an added asset. He can reach out for advice and assistance and that will be the extent to which Shah’s influence will continue.”
Several leaders said that Nadda’s “man-management skills” and “cordiality” will prove advantageous. “He has a sharp mind, is a good listener and can work without creating waves…sometimes that is also necessary to bind people,” said the second functionary.
Nadda, who served as the Union health minister during Modi’s first term, belongs to a Brahmin family from Himachal Pradesh. He began his political career as a student leader in Bihar, where his father, N L Nadda, served as Patna University’s vice-chancellor.
According to Nadda’s biodata on the Rajya Sabha website, he was inspired by the Bihar students’ movement in 1974 (also called JP movement) before his association with the ABVP and BJP’s youth wing, which he also headed.
Nadda has a law degree from Himachal Pradesh. He was first elected to the Himachal Pradesh assembly from Bilaspur in 1993 and has served as a state minister too.
(With inputs from Amandeep Shukla)