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Rajnath may face the heat at BJP meet tomorrow

Party leaders from across the country meet in Dehradun from Thursday amid indications that its president is being quietly edged out by his colleagues.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2006 10:39 IST

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from all over the country will brainstorm in Dehradun from Thursday amid indications that its president Rajnath Singh is being quietly edged out by his colleagues.

The National Executive of the party was to focus on political and electoral strategies for upcoming assembly polls in Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

But BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley surprised all by stating that the party would concentrate on national security and threats posed by Maoist guerrillas.

This is bound to make Rajnath Singh unhappy. Rajnath Singh, who became the president last year and whose term expires next year, is intent on concentrating on ways of winning the coming elections in as many states as possible.

But BJP insiders admit the party is on a weak wicket in Rajnath Singh's home state Uttar Pradesh, where it was once the brightest star. For this reason alone the National Executive is meeting in Uttaranchal, and not in the more crucial Uttar Pradesh.

Rajnath Singh's supporters admit that though he is the party chief, LK Advani still calls the shots. All party leaders turn to Advani to understand the ways of BJP and even what to tell the media.

None of the general secretaries is particularly enamoured of Rajnath Singh though outwardly they show him respect. And Rajnath Singh is reportedly peeved that Advani's men will pick the candidates to contest the coming elections.

In such a case, Rajnath Singh supporters say, credit for BJP wins will go to Advani, while defeats, which is widely expected in Uttar Pradesh, will be blamed on the party president.

"The general impression is that Advani still is the de facto head of the party, and all the leaders continue to look up to him for deciding the party's official stand on crucial issues," a senior BJP leader said.

Also in Uttar Pradesh, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who represents Lucknow in the Lok Sabha, dominates the scene, overwhelming Rajnath Singh.

BJP sources say Vajpayee remains close to Kalraj Mishra while Advani has a good equation with former chief minister Kalyan Singh. In the process, Rajnath Singh is virtually isolated - in a state of which he was once a chief minister.

All this is forcing Rajnath Singh to take a hard line at the National Executive meeting.

"The biggest challenge is revival of the party in Uttar Pradesh, and Rajnath Singh's performance will be largely judged by the party's success in the state," the BJP leader said.

The party will also try to consolidate its position in Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh. In both states it is aiming to come back to power.

However, efforts to chalk out a winning strategy could be hit if the National Executive witnesses a silent power struggle within the party.

To add to the confusion, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and its hardline affiliates collectively known as Sangh Parivar would be keeping a close watch on the deliberations at the National Executive.

"We have already made it clear to BJP that it should not adopt a soft approach on issues of national importance," a Sangh Parivar functionary said.

"We would like the BJP to send this message to all party workers clearly at the three-day meeting," he added.

But even here, party sources say, Advani is quietly trying to steal a march over Rajnath Singh.

First Published: Sep 06, 2006 10:39 IST