NEW DELHI: When Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari’s term ends in December later this year, and he hopes to get an extension thereafter, he would have to reckon with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who would have completed his term as Chief Minister, and going by the present trend, been re-elected as Chief Minister for the third consecutive term.
So, while Gadkari hopes to make it as second-term party president, it remains to be seen whether Modi, who was approached in 2009 for the top party post, would give in easily. For, while there’s a clear division in the BJP, there appears to be a split opinion in the RSS as well. While the Sarsanghchalak (the RSS chief) is said to be in favour of a second term to Gadkari, a section in the Sangh also finds the idea of Modi as party president exciting.
It was widely believed that Modi would pitch for the top party job upon completion of his term and re-election as Gujarat Chief Minister, by 2012 year-end (This is roughly the time when Gadkari’s first term as party president ends).
The problem is, however, twofold: while Gadkari has been trying to make peace with those opposed to him in the Sangh, the section in the BJP that aggressively rooted for Modi in 2009 is no longer as enthusiastic about the Gujarat Chief Minister.
Thus, while there has been resentment with Gadkari in the BJP (and even in a section of the Sangh) on a number of issues: the Uttar Pradesh poll fiasco, Babu Singh Kushwaha’s induction, Anshuman Mishra episode, allotment to coal blocks to Gadkari-confidant Ajay Sancheti in Chhattisgarh, to name a few — the Advani camp feels that they could also have their way with Gadkari, if push came to shove. They give the latest example of S S Ahluwalia being fielded from Jharkhand although initially Gadkari had reservations about it.
On the other hand, no one can have their way with Modi (who’s much his own man), a reason why Advani and his camp followers now accept Gadkari’s second term as a fait accompli.
Even if Gadkari makes it as second-term party president, it remains to be seen what he does to mollify Modi — the two have not even been on talking terms for several weeks now, ever since Gadkari gave Modi’s bête noire Sanjay Joshi a prominent job in the UP election management. Sources close to Gadkari are, however, keen on amending the party constitution, “enabling the party president to hold two consecutive terms of three years each”.
It was in 2003 that the BJP constitution was amended, allowing a person a second term as president. The amendment, on the recommendations of the O P Kohli Committee, changed the earlier provision: that a person cannot occupy the top party post for a second term. The amendment also provided that no person could hold the post for two consecutive terms. The tenure of the party president was of three years. Earlier, the BJP constitution provision said that party president could have, in effect, four years at the helm — of two terms of two years each.
Amendments apart, the dominant view in the Sangh was, however, reflected in the RSS brass’s interaction with the BJP leadership last week. In one such meeting, RSS general secretary Suresh (Bhaiyyaji) Joshi, aided by a couple of other RSS functionaries — Dattatreya Hosabale, and Suresh Soni — put things in perspective with the BJP brass, including party president Nitin Gadkari, L K Advani, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu.
Topping the list of the deliberations was Gadkari’s second term as party president. Sources say Joshi tried to soften Advani and others who might have had any reservation about a second term to Gadkari. Joshi also made it clear that the Sangh brass had made up its mind on giving its blue-eyed boy a second term.
Sources say Advani and his camp, now appears resigned to the idea, after they had rooted for Modi as party chief in 2009. Now that BJP chief’s term is of three years, it would have to be amended to enable the incumbent to have two consecutive terms of three years each.