Politics is the game of uncertainties which finds its reflection in Narender Modi’s staging come back in 2014 as prime ministerial candidate though, as chief minister of Gujrat, he was axed by the then national president, Rajnath Singh in 2007 while rejigging the parliamentary board.
In Pre Modi period, BJP used to operate through central parliamentary board was dominated by upper castes but now old mechanism has undergone metamorphosis hence balancing of castes has become mandatory for the elections.
While having the tallest leader like Atal Bihari Vajpyee in the board, it had a caste leader like Kalyan Singh from Uttar Pradesh to represent backward communities.
As a strategist and funds collector, Parmod Mahjan found place in parliamentary board but top leadership did not forget to include Gopinath Munde, another OBC leader from Maharashtra who built BJP from scratch in Marathwada and north Maharashtra.
Keeping in view politics of Modi-Shah, octogenarian leaders like L.K.Advani, Murli Manhohar Joshi etc., were packed in ‘Margdarshak Mandal’ 8 years ago, now the axe has fallen on Nitin Gadkari and Shiv Raj Singh Chouhan’s dropping and Yogi Aditaya Nath’s exclusion to reduce their growing stature and size which has not surprised many, though changes have been undertaken with an eye on 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Analysts cite three factors responsible for marginalisation of Gadkari who has got potential to replace Modi and he can gradually emerge as a replacement especially in view of his strong support of RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat.
First, Nitin Gadkari has established himself as the best performer in Modi government and even Congress acting president, Sonia Gandhi and entire opposition praised his quotient of delivery without discriminating against any party leader.
Second, Gadkari is known as straight forth leader unlike majority of senior BJP leaders who keep on changing their stance, which has helped him to attain a good image in the eyes of public.
He did not deny his statement when he said that he feels perturbed over the power game and a thought of taking ‘Sanyas’ (retirement) comes to mind which was interpreted as a veiled attack on Modi-Shah politics which believes in Machiavelli principle of attaining end result without bothering about means.
Third, as things stand today, BJP can not be sure of retaining power in 2024 and if its number is reduced to 230 or 240 then Gadkari can become choice of RSS, hence his removal from parliamentary board and central elections committee may be primarily guided by this scare.
In a related development, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, RSS activist since 1972 belongs to Kirar community (OBC) in Madhya Pradesh and survived earlier onslaught of ‘Gujrat Lobby’.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, having 20 years experience as chief minister and influential leader of OBC could pose threat to leadership hence he has been shown his place.
Now no CM is the member of parliamentary board and central election committee. Yogi Aditya Nath is another Hindutava ideologue who has not bee included in the board of election committee as he has got capability to climb the ladder to top slot, hence wings clipped.
Suryanarayan Zatia from MP belongs to scheduled castes and finds berth in place of Shivraj Chouhan.
While applying the theory of ‘Check and Balance’, Former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has also been included in the Parliamentary Board and party leaders justify it by saying that it has been done in a bid to diversify the membership because he belongs to a tribal community from Assam.
Experts, however, differ with this contention and argue that Sonowal was sulking after the injustice of not nominating him as chief minister though he has worked hard to bring the party to power in Assam hence he has found a place in the highest body of BJP.
Former chief of the party’s OBC Morcha and Rajya Sabha MP K. Laxman who belongs to Telangana is another significant inclusion.
Devender Fernandes has been rewarded for accepting the down gradation in new government in Maharashtra as deputy chief minister which is being done to encourage him for a future role in place of Gadkari.
Nationalist Congress party (NCP) took a dig at the BJP over Gadkari’s ouster from the Parliamentary Board, saying the party removed him due to his rising stature as an “astute politician”.
NCP spokesperson Clyde Crasto said on Twitter, “when your caliber and capabilities grow and you pose a challenge to the higher-ups the BJP downsizes you. The tainted get upgraded.”
Interestingly, during Gadkari’s tenure as national party president, almost half of the parliamentary board members were Brahmins — Gadkari himself, Vajpayee, Ananth Kumar, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj.
Other senior leaders like Advani, Rajnath Singh, Ram Lal and Venkaiah Naidu hailed from other upper castes. Thawar Chand Gehlot was the only Dalit face in the all-powerful BJP decision-making body.
It may be recalled that the then BJP president Rajnath Singh had dropped Narendra Modi in 2007, though he was then chief minister of Gujarat, from the parliamentary board. Modi staged a comeback in 2014 and became PM candidate and rest is in front of everyone.
A cursory look at the inclusion of members from other states shows that a Sikh member, Iqbal Singh Lalpura has been included in parliamentary board which has happened for the first time in the history of saffron party which could be seen as approval of his protest movement against the farm laws which were repealed by the Union Government besides the political exigencies in Punjab.
Other significant inclusions are former MP from Mahendragarh in Haryana, Sudha Yadav whose husband, Deputy Commandant Sukhbir Singh Yadav of the Border Security Force (BSF) had died fighting Pakistani intruders during the Kargil war.
BJP’s Mahila Morcha president, Tamil Nadu MLA Vanathi Srinivasan has also been made a member of the CEC. Union Minister Bhupendra Yadav and senior party leader Om Mathur are the other two members. Former Union Ministers like Jual Oram and Shahnawaz Hussain have been dropped.
As per established policy, BJP uses 75-year age bar on a selective basis which applies to family members also as 12 tickets were given to the same members of families in Uttarakhand assembly elections as BJP was desperate to win this state.
Similarly, BJP leadership has exalted norm for Yeddyurappa, former chief minister, Karnataka which is aimed at winning over the powerful Lingayat community though he Yeddyurappa is keep unhappy.
BJP high command had forced Yeddyurappa to resign last year due to corruption charges but he is acceptable owing to political exigencies.
Keeping in view BJP and RSS ideology, the only Muslim face in central elections committee, Shanawaz Hussin has been dropped from election committee and no Muslim forms the part of council of ministers or even MP and not even token representation in any important party post.
Earlier, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had quit as Union Minister after the end of his Rajjya Sabha term and he was not given the ticket to re-enter upper house.
( K.S. Tomar is political analyst and senior journalist)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.