Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari (65), an inside challenger to Narendra Modi and a politician said to be angling for the prime minister’s post after him, was on Wednesday dropped from the BJP parliamentary board, the party’s highest decision-making body.
Along with Gadkari, Shivraj Singh Chouhan (63), three-time chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, was shown the door.
The major organisational reshuffle decided by BJP president Jagat Prakash Nadda in consultation with the prime minister and Home Minister Amit Shah, is a clear message to Gadkari, a former BJP president from Nagpur close to the RSS top brass, to contain his ambitions.
Gadkari’s exclusion exposes the growing tension between him and the central leadership despite his close links with the RSS.
Gadkari has been hogging the limelight for aggressively pushing road and highway development. His growing popularity across parties reportedly went against him. His exclusion also signals his receding clout in the party.
Chouhan's removal from the parliamentary board is seen as a hint of his removal as chief minister before next year’s assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh.
Six new members have been inducted in the parliamentary board, taking its strength up to 11. They are former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa (79), Union minister Sarbanand Sonowal from Assam, BJP OBC Morcha head Dr K Laxman (66) from Telangana, former Punjab IPS officer and chairman of the National Minority Commission Iqbal Singh Lalpura (69), who joined the BJP in 2012 and unsuccessfully contested the Punjab assembly election earlier this year, former Union minister Satyanarayan Jatiya (76), a Dalit leader from Ujjain in MP who was elected to the Lok Sabha for seven terms and one term in the Rajya Sabha, and national secretary Sudha Yadav (57) from Haryana.
Five members who continue in the board are Nadda (61), national general secretary BL Santhosh (53), Modi (71), defence minister Rajnath Singh (71) and Shah (57).
Nadda also reshuffled the 15-member Central Election Committee (CEC), which has the eleven members of the parliamentary board with Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, national general secretary and Union minister Bhupender Yadav and national vice-president Om Mathur joining as new members. BJP women’s wing chief Vanathi Srinivasan joins as ex-officio member of the CEC, replacing her predecessor Vijaya Rahatkar. Former Union ministers Shahnawaz Hussain and Jual Oram have been dropped.
Over the past five years, the parliamentary board had five vacancies arising from the death of senior leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and CN Ananth Kumar and the election of Venkaiah Naidu as vice-president of India and former Union minister Thawarchand Gehlot’s appointment as governor of Karnataka.
With these appointments, the BJP has tried to strike a social and regional balance. The party’s organising secretary deputed from the RSS is ex-officio member of the parliamentary board. Incidentally, Santhosh and Yediyurappa, who had once left the BJP to form his own Karnataka Janata Paksha, both hail from Shimoga district in Karnataka.
Sudha Yadav, another new entrant, is from Haryana and has a PhD from IIT Roorkee.