There are some similarities between Bharatiya Janata Party president JP Nadda’s new team and that of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. No, it’s not about loyalists and sycophants. It’s about losers’ luck. Both parties nurture and promote them. Congress party’s losers were on top of the world when interim president Sonia Gandhi rewarded them in an organisational reshuffle last month.
It was the turn of the losers in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when Nadda constituted his new team on Saturday, eight months after he had replaced Amit Shah as the BJP president. He appointed 12 national vice-presidents, 8 general secretaries, and 13 secretaries, among others. The post of vice-president is ceremonial in the BJP, and it’s the general secretaries who wield the real powers. While Nadda retained three general secretaries from Shah’s team, he brought in five new ones. Let’s look at the credentials of some of Nadda’s new appointments.
The new A-team
Tarun Chugh, national general secretary
Credentials—never won an election; lost the 2012 and 2017 assembly elections from Amritsar Central assembly constituency; was part of Arun Jaitley’s losing election management team in Amritsar in the 2014 Lok Sabha election; presided over the BJP’s humiliating defeat in Delhi polls as the party’s co-in-charge.
Dushyant Kumar Gautam, national general secretary
Credentials— never won an election; lost the 2008 and 2013 assembly elections in Delhi’s Kondli constituency; sent to the Rajya Sabha by the party early this year.
D. Purandeswari, national general secretary
Credentials —a minister in the Manmohan Singh government, she quit the Congress ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election; lost the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections on BJP ticket from different constituencies in Andhra Pradesh.
These are not the only losers in the list of general secretaries and secretaries who will be given charge of different states and be expected to win elections for the BJP. There are many others in Nadda’s team who are one-election wonders, such as general secretary Dilip Saikia from Assam and new Yuva Morcha chief Tejasvi Surya, who rode the Narendra Modi wave in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Time for polarisation
This is not to say that Amit Shah’s team comprised winners. Most of them were either unelected or unelectable. But Amit Shah never needed a team to plot and execute the ouster of political adversaries from power in states. He planned it all himself. He was always on the move and was more clued in about the happenings in any corner of India than any state in-charges, or even state unit presidents. With Shah in command, the BJP’s central office-bearers just had to comply with his instructions as robots, and not worry about results. But Nadda is not Shah. And that’s why the current BJP president’s selection of non-doers as his core team is baffling.
If you were to listen to BJP spin masters, Nadda’s choices are driven by great political logic and vision. The new faces in the central BJP team ostensibly represent the party’s grand vision to groom young, Gen Next leadership. Look at them closely and the real reasons for their promotion come unstuck. Given that Nadda’s team had to have the clearance of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, the choice of central office-bearers suggests that the ruling party’s focus in coming years will not be on Modi’s governance agenda, but on polarising debates.
Tejasvi Surya has proved his mettle on this score within a year after he came to the political centre-stage after winning his first Lok Sabha election. He has now been given a much bigger platform as the Yuva Morcha chief to do the same. On his first day in office, he got an audience with Amit Shah and told him how Bengaluru was becoming an “incubation centre” of anti-India activities.
Dilip Saikia, the new national general secretary and “third-year trained” RSS worker, has been vocal in his support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA, and attacked National Register of Citizens (NRC) coordinator Prateek Hajela for the IAS officer’s objection to the re-verification of the NRC in Assam.
Tarun Chugh, the other newly appointed general secretary, had termed Shaheen Bagh as “Shaitani Bagh” and declared that the BJP would not let Delhi turn into “Syria”. Nadda has also retained the party’s IT and social media in-charge, Amit Malviya, whose controversial pronouncements and attacks on dissenting voices had got even BJP MP Subramanian Swamy’s goat.
Core of turncoats
Another spin on the organisational reshuffle coming from the Nadda camp is how the BJP president has sought to prioritise the party’s immediate political objectives. So, according to spin doctors, there were three appointments from poll-bound West Bengal on Saturday’s list—Mukul Roy as national vice-president, Anupam Hazra as national secretary and Raju Bisht as national spokesman. From poll-bound Kerala, former comrade-turned-Congressman A.P. Abdullakutty has been appointed vice-president and Tom Vadakkan, a former Gandhi family loyalist who had joined the BJP ahead of the last Lok Sabha election, has been appointed BJP national spokesperson. To bolster the BJP’s prospects in Telangana, two leaders from the state—D. Aruna and K. Laxman—were included in the list of central office-bearers. The same logic is proffered for Purandeswari’s promotion to national general secretary. Late N.T. Rama Rao’s (NTR) daughter is expected to be the party’s ace card against rival Telugu Desam Party (TDP)’s N. Chandrababu Naidu, NTR’s son-in-law, in Andhra Pradesh. NTR had founded the TDP on anti-Congressism but his daughter, Purandeswari, and her husband, D. Venkateshwara Rao, joined the Congress in 2004, before switching their loyalties a decade later.
Whether the promotion of these leaders in the BJP’s hierarchy ultimately works or not, it certainly goes to Nadda’s credit that he has sought to bolster the party’s prospects in politically promising and poll-bound states. The only caveat is that the BJP president, in this process, has ended up promoting turncoats in the party’s organisational hierarchy. As an organisation, the BJP now has two extremes of leaders— a dominant section committed to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its ideology and the other comprising turncoats with power being their only ideology.
Apart from general secretary Purandeswari, five of the 12 newly appointed BJP vice-presidents are political turncoats: A.P. Abdullakutty, who had been expelled from the CPM and subsequently from the Congress before he joined the BJP; Mukul Roy, former Trinamool Congress leader; Annapurna Devi, former Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLA from Jharkhand; D.K. Aruna, former Congress minister from Telangana; Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, former Biju Janata Dal leader. Mukul Roy’s former colleague in the Trinamool Congress, Anupam Hazra, is a BJP national secretary now.
Former West Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha has already attacked the party leadership for dropping loyal BJP leaders from party positions to accommodate people from the Trinamool Congress. He is certainly not the only one in the BJP to frown at the promotion of political turncoats in the party at the cost of loyal leaders. It’s not that this has started during Nadda’s time. Welcoming of turncoats into the BJP fold and rewarding them with ministerial and organisational positions had taken off in a big way under Modi and Amit Shah. The party could get away with it because the BJP kept trouncing the opposition in one state after another. Nadda may find the going rough, though.
A man to watch out for
Coming back to the retention of three general secretaries from Shah’s team, the decision to keep Bhupendra Yadav in the organisation is curious. He is Shah’s most trusted lieutenant, who was credited with the party’s election victories in many states, including Rajasthan and Gujarat. Even in matters of governance, Yadav has been more than handy in his capacity as chairman of the parliamentary committee on law and justice. As head of several Select Committees, he has shown his grasp of complicated policy matters, too. He was tipped to get a Cabinet berth in the next revamp of the Union cabinet.
Yadav may not be very disappointed though. He is now tipped to be a part of the party’s powerful parliamentary board. Having proven his organisational skills, understanding of government matters, and with the blessings of Amit Shah, he has now emerged as the next man to watch in the BJP. Nadda’s first term as BJP president ends in January 2023. Given the team that he has built, he doesn’t seem to be looking beyond that.
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