NEW DELHI: The BJP on Tuesday held the first meeting of its parliamentary party in the absence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leaving open the question about the official number two in the hierarchy.
Asked about who presided over the meeting, Union minister Venkaiah Naidu said: “No one presided over it. There is no vacancy. A Prime Minister is Prime Minister whether he is here or abroad.” During the meeting at Parliament’s Central Hall, deputy leaders in both Houses -- Rajnath Singh (Lok Sabha) and Arun Jaitley (Rajya Sabha)-- along with the government’s chief whip and senior leader L K Advani were present. The question is likely to come up again when the first Cabinet meet in Modi’s absence will be held.
Usually, Home Minister Rajnath Singh is seated next to Modi at Cabinet meetings, and was the second one to be sworn in after the Prime Minister. Being the former party president, Rajnath is seen as the number two in the pecking order. Rajnath is part of the powerful Appointments Committee of the Cabinet that decides on all key bureaucratic appointments. He is also on all the six new Cabinet committees, his name appearing after Modi in five of these panels.
And he heads the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs. He has even replaced External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as the leader of the party in the Lok Sabha. During the last Lok Sabha, she was Leader of the Opposition.
Now, both Advani and Swaraj are not part of the parliamentary party executive committee announced on Saturday, a day before Modi left for Brazil.
Under Modi, the BJP has been trying to create an atmosphere where party MPs bond with one another and stay together as a family. The party has now convened a meeting of the ‘Kamal Sakhi Manch’ comprising wives of all of its MPs at Parliament Annexe on July 22.