Jagat Prakash Nadda is all set to take over the reins of BJP from Amit Shah. Home Minister Shah himself submitted Nadda’s nomination papers at the BJP headquarters Monday. Nadda was appointed the party’s working president in July 2019, five years after Shah took the role, and has been in charge of the BJP’s election campaign in Uttar Pradesh.
ThePrint asks: Can JP Nadda reverse BJP’s recent slide or does the party still need Amit Shah?
It’s not what JP Nadda can or cannot do for BJP, but whether he will have autonomy to decide
Co-Director, Trivedi Centre for Political Data and assistant professor, Ashoka University
The elevation of J.P. Nadda as BJP president helps the party protect Home Minister Amit Shah, who has led the BJP to numerous electoral setbacks in recent state elections. It also helps the party maintain a façade of internal democracy, even though the selection of J.P. Nadda as party president is an appointment from the top and not the outcome of a competitive internal process.
Future electoral prospects depend, in part, on the ability of the BJP to learn from its recent defeats. The Amit Shah model – centralising all decisions and nominations and diluting local cadres in a larger professionalised electoral machine driven exclusively by the centre – has shown its limits when the party is challenged by regional adversaries who pick their own strategies from a similar toolbox as the BJP.
So, the question is not so much what can J.P. Nadda do or can’t do to improve the BJP’s electoral prospects, but whether he will be given any latitude to decide whether state units can have some autonomy and whether the centralisation of power and decisions within the party can be somewhat relaxed. Given the current state of affairs and the rising contestation against the BJP’s policy agenda, that orientation seems unlikely.
BJP’s structure is so strong that Nadda will be able to carry it forward from where Amit Shah has left it
Senior BJP leader
The BJP is not a static party but a dynamic organisation. It’s a system-oriented party. So while it throws up leadership, it also has a system where there is an infusion of new blood at all levels. It is for this reason that since its inception in 1980, the BJP has had a number of presidents who have led the organisation with distinction – unlike the Congress or other parties where the top post is with a family. When J.P. Nadda takes over the BJP as its president, there will be continuity. And since change is the hallmark of the BJP, it is going to be continuity with change.
The BJP has flourished under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah as the party’s president. Earlier, it was the combination of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani. Questions like what will happen to the BJP without the leadership of Vajpayee and Advani were raised during their time as well. But as I said, the party trains its leaders from the grassroots so there is never any dearth of people to take up the responsibility when the need arises.
The transition has always been very smooth. Fundamentally, the steel structure of the organisation is so strong that Nadda will be able to carry it forward from where Amit Shah has left it without any hitches or hiccups.
Nadda is more of a follower than a leader. His job will be to implement the decisions made by Modi-Shah
National coordinator, Lokniti Network
J.P. Nadda taking over the BJP as its president does not change the political equations within the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still in control and Home Minister Amit Shah will continue to be his second-in-command. While all the major decisions within the BJP will obviously be made by these two leaders, Nadda’s role will be to implement these decisions.
However, Nadda may become the points-person for any blame game that the BJP may have to play in the future. We are moving towards a system in the BJP where there could well be authority without responsibility. Although Shah will not be the president of the party officially, a realistic assessment of the situation would indicate that he will very much continue to call the shots. If the BJP continues to face reversals electorally and politically or has to defend its controversial decisions, then it will be Nadda at the forefront.
The nitty-gritty of party management will be left to Nadda but the final decisions will remain with Modi and Shah. They are playing musical chairs in terms of who holds the No. 1 position in the party. It had become difficult for the home minister to formally continue as BJP president. And Nadda’s personality is such that he fits the role in the present situation perfectly. He is more of a follower than a leader, and therefore can take the flak as and when necessary. I won’t be surprised if that’s how the BJP’s style of management turns out to be in the immediate and distant future.
Nadda may be able to decide BJP organisation, but electoral strategies will still be decided by Modi-Shah
Contributing editor, ThePrint
J.P. Nadda has been the working president of the BJP. After months of grooming, he’s now been formally made party president. With Modi and Shah at the helm, Nadda will have to work in their shadows. It is highly unlikely that he will be a powerful, autonomous party president like Amit Shah was.
Perhaps, Nadda may be able to give more time to the party organisation, but the party’s electoral strategies will likely still be decided by Modi-Shah. It is thus difficult to see how Nadda can immediately change the party’s electoral fortunes.
Nadda is formally becoming the BJP president just a few days before the party’s near-certain defeat in the Delhi assembly elections. If that happens, it will be a re-affirmation that the party needs better, stronger faces in the state capitals. It can’t over-rely on Narendra Modi to win state elections, given the clear delineation of central and state elections that the BJP itself has suggested to voters.
And it is unlikely that Nadda will get a free hand in doing so. The party has a prestige battle ahead in West Bengal, and it is Amit Shah, not Nadda, who will come across as the general spearheading the BJP campaign in Bengal. Unless the BJP feels it is losing.
By Taran Deol, journalist at ThePrint