BHOPAL: In a clear cut indication of the party’s organizational set up being handed over to next-generation leaders coming from RSS background, the BJP appointed Sangh’s blue-eyed boy and first-time Lok Sabha member from Khajuraho seat Vishnu Dutt Sharma as the new state party chief in Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh on Saturday.
Sharma’s appointment as MP BJP president, while ending months of speculations about who’ll succeed present state party chief and Jabalpur MP Rakesh Singh (Singh was state BJP president since April 2018), also came as an upset of sorts to big names, including former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, present state party head Rakesh Singh, former minister Narottam Mishra, union minister and former state chief Narendra Singh Tomar and Rajya Sabha member Dr Prabhat Jha.
Informed sources within the party confided to The New Indian Express that several other names of second-generation leaders, among them legislators Arvind Singh Bhadoria and Usha Thakur, former home minister Bhupendra Singh, ex-minister Lal Singh Arya, besides former minister and ex-Bajrang Dal national convener Jaibhan Singh Pavaiya too were in the race.
But present state general secretary VD Sharma, who is seen as the blue-eyed boy of RSS, prevailed, particularly due to backing of ex-CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is said to have not favoured the continuance of Rakesh Singh in the post or appointing anyone like Jaibhan Singh Pavaiya as new state party head.
Unlike the previous two state presidents, Nandkumar Singh Chauhan and Rakesh Singh (who didn’t have an RSS background), the 49-year-old Sharma ( a Brahmin by caste) hails from full-fledged Sangh background and has been a firebrand national general secretary of saffron outfit’s students wing ABVP in the past. He has more than two decades experience of working in ABVP and BJP and won his maiden LS polls from Khajuraho seat last year.
His rich experience of having worked for party organization in tribal-dominated Mahakoshal region of MP as well as having been party’s in-charge in Santhal belt of Jharkhand during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls too made him the national party leadership’s choice for the top organizational post in the state, where BJP lost power after 15 years in 2018.
Importantly, both, the present national BJP president JP Nadda and now state BJP chief VD Sharma have been with ABVP in the past and are also wedded to girls from Jabalpur district of MP.
Sharma’s appointment to the post comes just a few months ahead of crucial twin by-elections to Agar (SC) and Jaura assembly seats, whose dates are yet to be announced. Interestingly, Sharma hails from Morena district of Gwalior-Chambal region, which houses the by-poll bound Jaura seat. In the 2018 assembly polls, the saffron party had performed worst in the Gwalior-Chambal region only.
The two assembly by-polls (whenever they are held) will be the first acid test for Sharma, particularly, as his last brush as in-charge of by-elections in November 2017 had resulted in a disaster, when the Congress had defeated BJP by over 14,000 votes to retain the Chitrakoot assembly seat of Satna district.
Sharma’s elevation as state BJP chief also assumes significance as the party organization and RSS have been concerned over the growing disconnect between the big leaders and workers on Ground Zero which has been reflected by the 2018 assembly polls result and loss of Jhabua assembly by-poll last year.
Expressing gratitude to the national party leadership, Sharma said on Saturday that he would work religiously for strengthening party organization on the ground. Chief Minister Kamal Nath tweeted congratulating the new state BJP president and hoped that he would be positive towards the Congress government’s efforts for developing the state.
The CM’s media convener and Congress leader Narendra Saluja, however, took a dig at the BJP, tweeting, “appointing VD Sharma as state party chief exposes the real commitment of BJP towards SC, ST and OBC. With this, yet another name has been added to the long list of CMs in waiting withing MP BJP. A leader, who as election in-charge couldn’t guide the party in winning Chitrakoot by-poll in 2017, how will he lead the party in entire state.”