11 July 2002


From Jal Khambata

NEW DELHI: Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi that are going for Assembly polls next year dominate in the list of the new central office-bearers of the Bhartiya Janata Party announced by its president M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday, saying the average age of the new team is of his own age -- 52 plus.

The key post of the treasurer has gone to Ramdas Agarwal, who was a Vice-President in the outgoing team and is a former President of the Rajasthan BJP. He succeeds economist treasurer Sukumar Nambiar who would be accommodated in the organisation now with "some special assignment."

An immediate question posed to Naidu after he announced the list of new office-bearers, executive members and special invitees at a Press conference here was about reorganisation of the party untis in the states that are due for polls, particularly Rajasthan where protests have begun on the media leaks of Union Minister of State Vasundhara Raje slated to head the Rajasthan unit.

Naidu made it clear that no decision had been taken so far and said discussions will be held with the state units to find out if there was need "at all" for restructuring. The hint was clear that the state units may not be disturbed for the time being.

It is, however, not so in Delhi where former Chief Minister Madanlal Khurana is finally getting the reins of the Delhi BJP as Naidu said Mangeram Garg, who quit as state BJP chief, will be given "some special assignment soon." Khuarana was the Vice-President in the outgoing team. Another former Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma, however, loses the post of the vice-president he held.

The fulltime RSS Pracharak Pyarelal Khandelwal of Madhya Pradesh who was widely tipped to be dropped from the previous team of K Jana Krishnamurthi has been moved from the post of General Secretary to that of Vice-President. Tribal leader Dilip Singh Bhuria is another induction from Madhya Pradesh as one of the seven Vice-Presidents.

Other Vice-presidents retained are Kailashpati Mishra and Gopinath Munde, former Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra while the other three Vice-Presidents are Rajya Sabha member Bal Apte (Mumbai), Dr Harshvardhan (former Health Minister of Delhi) and Mrs Karuna Shukla (Chhattisgarh).

Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Rajnath Singh tops the list of five general secretaries, followed by Arun Jaitley (Delhi, though can claim to be from Gujarat which elected him to the Rajya Sabha), Sanjay Joshi (Gujarat), Delhi MP Mrs Anita Arya and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who was so far head of the Minority Morcha.

Sanjay Joshi of RSS, who had shifted to the headquarters from Gujarat to fill the vacancy caused by Narendra Modi going to Gujarat as the Chief Minister, is the only general secretary retained from the previous team.

There are seven new all-India secretaries and all are young and new faces in the headquarters, except for Vidisha (MP) MP Shivraj Singh Chauhan who was so far President of the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha. His post has gone to Andhra BJP spokesman G Krishna Reddy who had been earlier the general secretary of BJYM.

Other secretaries are: L Ganesan (Tamil Nadu), Thawar Chand Gehlot, MP from Shajapur in Madhya Pradesh, Om Prakash Dhankar from Rajasthan, Mrs Jas Kaur Meena, MP from Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan, Mrs Lalita Kumarmangalam (sister of late Union Minister Rangarajan Kumarmangalam) from Tamil Nadu and Orissa MLA Dharmendra Pradhan, son of BJP MP Debendra Pradhan.

Arun Jaitley, a Supreme Court senior advocate-turned former Law Minister, is the chief spokesman of the party. Naidu said he had begged his services from the Prime Minister since he knew him since the time of their participation in the students movement. He said similarly Rajnath Singh was associated with him in the youth movement. Those assisting Jaitley as spokesmen are Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Sunil Shastri, the last one being the only link from the previous team of spokesmen.

Dr Ram Kripal Sinha, a former Union Deputy Minister from Bihar in the Morarji Desai Government, who had risen to be the secretary, has been reverted back as incharge of the BJP headquarters. Ashwini Kumar continues to be incharge of the BJP Parliamentary Party.

BANGARU RETAINED: Former BJP President Bangaru Laxman, who had to quit in the wake of the Tehelka expose of accepting bribe, has been retained in the 52-member national executive and so is outgoing President K Jana Krishnamurthi.

Former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and Textiles Minister Kashiram Rana are the only representatives of the state in the national executive as nobody else has been included even in the list of23 other special invitees. Of course, the chief minister and state BJP presidents are also invitees to the national executive meeting.

Union Minister of State Chaman Lal Gupta, who is tipped to head the Jammu and Kashmir BJP, is the lone representative from his state as a member of the national executive. Those from Madhya Pradesh are Satyanarain Jatiya, ousted General Secretary Maya Singh, and Union Minister Sadhvi Uma Bharti.

Those from Rajasthan in the executive are: Union Minister of State Vasundhara Raje and Mrs Kiran Maheshwari. The lone representation from Goa has gone to Julio D'Souza.

Kirit Somaiya, MP from Mumbai, Mrs Kante Nalvade, Ms Nafiza Muzaffar Hussain, Ramdas Gavit, MP and not to be forgotten Union Minister Pramod Mahajan are in the executive from Maharashtra. Former BJP treasurer and now Union Minister Vedprakash Goyal is one of the special invitees. Ghanshyam Tiwari and Om Mathur from Rajasthan figure in the list of special invitees.

Meanwhile, Naidu on Thursday disclosed that he had approached the Prime Minister to relieve Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani to head the party as he felt "parivartan" (change) was necessary to reverse the fast sliding electoral fortunes of the party.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, however, made it clear that he cannot spare Advani's services from the Government since his presence in the government was "very essential" and hence the hunt continued for a suitable man who can take up the responsibility of the "mid-course correctives" at a time when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance Government has already completed half of its term in the current Lok Sabha.

Naidu said he was, however, "shocked" and "surprised" when the mantle fell on his head since "I know my limitations, my shortcomings, ability and capability and so I had never aspired for the presidentship."

However, since the responsibility has been cast upon him for "revitalisation" of the organisation", Naidu told the Media that he was starting his term with a warning to the party cadre about the defects and decay of the party when power is seen as an end and as such they should guard the organisation against this "deadly virus." The only medicine to fight back this virus is to remember the party's mission and its different ideology to move forward.

Naidu made it clear that he would not allow factionalism, gropism or indiscipline and he was speaking from his experience that these three had affected the party at all levels. "The BJP is seen as a party of white cloths and hence even a blot of ink stands out prominently while the same blot in other colourful parties just looks like yet another colour," he remarked.

"Victory in Assembly polls this year and next year is our immediate goal and we shall achieve it," Naidu said in a 3-page statement that also asserted that he would ensure that the party becomes an effective link between the government and the people and removes the lacuna of so many achievements of the government not getting informed to the people at the lowest level.

And, alike all his predecessors, Naidu also did not forget to repeat the Advani line that the BJP is a party with a difference, different in ideology, different in thinking, different in behaviour and different in practice. "My endeavour is to live up to expectations of people in this regards," he added. END