With JP Nadda's Extended Term As BJP President Coming To End, All Eyes Are On Who Will Be Next Party Chief

With JP Nadda's Extended Term As BJP President Coming To End, All Eyes Are On Who Will Be Next Party Chief

The new appointment will come at a time when the BJP, after nearly two decades, is again beset with diminishing political returns.

Gaurav Vivek BhatnagarUpdated: Wednesday, June 12, 2024, 03:13 PM IST
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New Delhi: With the extended term of JP Nadda as BJP president ending later this month and given his induction into the Union Cabinet, all eyes are now on the selection of the next leader of the “world’s biggest political party”.

The new appointment will come at a time when the BJP, after nearly two decades, is again beset with diminishing political returns.

Party Stalwarts Who Held The High Position

The post has in the past been held by party stalwarts – with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, and Murli Manohar Joshi holding it between 1980 and 1998 when the BJP was able to form its first government at the Centre. Overall, the post has thrice been held by Lal Krishna Advani and twice each by Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari. Apart from this, Murli Manohar Joshi and Amit Shah have also held it for a term each.

The party has mostly chosen its mass leaders for this post barring when it was in power between 1998 and 2004 – when it was held by Kushabhau Thakre, Bangaru Laxman, Jana Krishnamurthi, and Venkaiah Naidu. Amit Shah was probably the only key leader who held the post – from 2014 to 2020 while the BJP was in government. His term, however, saw the party cementing its post, forming governments in several states, and improving upon the results in the 2019 Lok Sabha.

Party's Performance Under The Leadership Of JP Nadda

The party witnessed a decline as its Lok Sabha tally dipped to 240 this year. It lost its grip on several states including his home state of Himachal Pradesh. His tenure demonstrated that someone merely mimicking the top two leaders through movement of hands or raising of voice does not necessarily guarantee more votes.

The party also failed to rein in its Lok Sabha candidates from touching on unnecessary issues and raking up controversies – such as changes in the Constitution and reservation policy. Nadda also made comments which irked the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. In an interview, he described it as BJP’s “ideological front” and spoke about its reduced need for BJP by saying “In the beginning, we would have been less capable, smaller and needed the RSS. Today, we have grown and we are capable.”

Rubber Stamp Or Mass Leader?

The question is whether BJP would have another rubber stamp president or one who is a mass leader in some ways and is measured in what is said and conveyed. The list of probable candidates has narrowed after former Cabinet ministers C.R. Patil and Bhupender Yadav and former chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Manohar Lal Khattar were also inducted into the Cabinet.

People In Contention For The Post

Many in the running Several senior BJP leaders are in contention for the post. On top is national general secretary and former Maharashtra minister Vinod Tawde. Belonging to the OBC community, he could be a key pick as the party seeks to win over this vote base which deserted it in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the Lok Sabha polls. With Maharashtra Assembly polls due in a few months, Tawde, who is a Maratha, could play an important role in reviving BJP’s fortunes in the state.

BJP general secretary Sunil Bansal, who is close to Amit Shah having worked as co-in-charge of UP when Shah was the in-charge during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls also has the added advantage of being a former RSS pracharak. He has also been in charge of polls in UP and Telangana and has worked extensively in West Bengal and Odisha.

The BJP’s general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santosh, who would be completing two terms in the post, could also be a contender. However, the party’s poor showing in the Karnataka Assembly elections and his differences with some senior state leaders could go against him. The party would also have to look for his replacement even if he is not promoted.

Another serious contender for the post is the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Om Mathur, who is considered a confidante of Narendra Modi and a protégé of former Rajasthan CM and Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. He is also an RSS pracharak and has been in charge of Gujarat as well.

The name of former Telangana BJP president, K. Laxman, who is also a popular OBC leader, is also doing the rounds. Then, former union ministers, Anurag Thakur, who is a five-term MP from Himachal Pradesh, and Smriti Irani, who had defeated Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in 2019, are also said to be in contention.

But while both these leaders are young, Thakur carries the tag of being a “dynast” as his father Prem Kumar Dhumal was a chief minister. In Irani, the party can have its first woman president. A former television star, she is also dynamic and hard-working. But the final selection depends on the Big 2 who are known to play their cards close to the chest.

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