New Delhi: The BJP’s reconstitution of its high-profile parliamentary board Wednesday is an exercise in diversity and aimed at sending a message to the public and party workers, according to senior party leaders.
The 11-member board, which is the BJP’s top decisionmaking body, saw some big names being dropped — Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Union Minister and former party chief Nitin Gadkari — and some surprise additions.
Six fresh inductions are Telangana BJP leader K. Laxman, Iqbal Singh Lalpura from Punjab, Sudha Yadav from Haryana, Satyanarayan Jatiya from Madhya Pradesh, veteran BJP leader B.S. Yediyurappa and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The new board has no general secretary, chief minister or young leader as a member.
The rest of the parliamentary board comprises BJP national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. It is chaired by BJP chief J.P. Nadda.
A senior BJP leader told ThePrint: “Party chief (Nadda) has changed the parameters while reconstituting the board. He has aimed to make it more inclusive, representing experience and the symbolism of caste.”
The leader said members were “earlier selected keeping in mind former party presidents”. “Venkaiah Naidu (party chief from 2002 to 2004) and Gadkari were members in the past, but Gadkari has been dropped now as he often has a different opinion on many subjects,” the leader added.
When it comes to former chief ministers, said the leader, Rajnath Singh in 2006 first inducted (then Gujarat CM) Modi in the board at (former party chief) L.K. Advani’s instance.
“Later, Shivraj was also included to balance Modi’s addition. But, this time, it was believed that chief ministers should not be part of the board, so Shivraj was dropped. Another significant change is that young leaders such as (former Union ministers) Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were given preference in the past but, this time, the addition of (Union ministers) Bhupender Yadav or (Gajendra Singh) Shekhawat was not believed necessary after discussion,” said the party leader.
Yogi Adityanath, the BJP CM of India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh, and women leaders such as Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani, have not been included though they were widely expected to be part of the board.
Another senior BJP leader, who was earlier a member of the board, said: “It’s more or less like an extended (erstwhile advisory body) ‘margdarshak mandal’ in which decisions will be taken only by PM Modi and Amit Shah and others will not air their views. Shivraj was dropped only to deny Yogi a chance in the board. The other members are insignificant.”
B.S. Yediyurappa, four-time chief minister of Karnataka, three-time opposition leader and a Lingayat strongman, is believed to be key to winning the assembly elections due next year.
With his selection in the parliamentary board, party sources said, the BJP high-command wants to send the message that it is honouring a Lingayat in its highest decisionmaking body. Without support from the Lingayat community, no party can hope to win Karnataka.
Yediyurappa had in late 2012 resigned from the BJP and ensured its defeat in the subsequent Karnataka elections after forming his own party. In 2014, he merged his party with the BJP again and led it to becoming the single-largest party in the 2018 polls. In 2021, he resigned from the chief minister’s post to make way for fresh leadership amid rumblings against him among some sections of the party.
Union minister Sonowal, one of the BJP’s key northeastern leaders who holds the portfolios of ports, shipping and waterways and AYUSH, started his political career with the Asom Gana Parishad and subsequently moved to the BJP to become its first chief minister in Assam in 2016. But Himanta Biswa Sarma took on the role when the BJP won its second term in 2021.
Sonowal’s selection in the parliamentary board is meant to signify its inclusive nature, according to BJP sources.
Sudha Yadav, a Kargil War widow and the BJP’s OBC face in south Haryana where Yadavs form a significant share of the population, is the sole women’s representative in the board after Sushma Swaraj’s demise in 2019.
She holds a PhD in chemistry from IIT. Yadav has been a member of the National Commission for Backward Classes since 2019 and is a BJP national secretary.
Yadav joined politics after her husband, Deputy Commandant Sukhbir Singh Yadav of the Border Security Force, died in the Kargil War. She was the BJP’s Lok Sabha MP from Mahendragarh in Haryana from 1999 to 2004. She also fought on a party ticket in the Lok Sabha elections of 2004 (Mahendragarh) and 2009 (Gurgaon), but lost both.
Former MP Jatiya, who is also known as a poet, was social justice and labour minister during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as prime minister. He has been elected to the Lok Sabha seven times from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh.
He has been included in the board to represent the Dalit community and to balance Chouhan’s exit from the board at a time when elections are looming in Madhya Pradesh (in 2023), according to BJP sources.
This is Jatiya’s second stint in the parliamentary board. He had earlier served as a member during Advani’s tenure as party president. He is seen as the replacement for Thawar Chand Gehlot, who was appointed Karnataka governor last year, as the board’s Dalit representative.
He is the national president of the BJP’s OBC morcha and is also a Rajya Sabha MP.
He served as the BJP chief in Telangana between 2016 and 2020 and was the national secretary during Gadkari’s tenure as party president. He has been associated with the party for over 40 years and has earlier served as MLA from Musheerabad.
He has been active in Telangana politics and campaigned extensively during the Uttar Pradesh elections this year. The BJP has asked him to focus chiefly on Telangana, where elections are due next year, and he has been participating in public programmes in the state. His inclusion fits well within the BJP’s push for the OBC vote.
Iqbal Singh Lalpura
Lalpura, a former IPS officer, joined the BJP in 2012. A Sikh face from Punjab, he was earlier appointed as the party’s national spokesperson.
He is the first Sikh who is part of the BJP’s parliamentary board and his inclusion is significant in the wake of the Shiromani Akali Dal’s exit from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. His selection is meant to send a message to the Sikh community and smoothen ties with Sikh farmers who agitated over the farm laws, said party sources.
Lalpura is currently the chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities and fought and lost the Punjab state election this year.
When farmer protests erupted in Punjab against the now-repealed farm laws, Lalpura frequently visited various parts of the state and faced protesters.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)