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Rajnath Singh may be next BJP chief
December 23, 2005 23:47 IST
Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party General Secretary Rajnath Singh has emerged as the front-runner to succeed L K Advani who is scheduled to step down as party President after the party's silver jubilee national conference in Mumbai next week.
Former Party President M Venkaiah Naidu, who claims to have bowed out of the race, and BJP Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj are said to be the other contenders for the top post. Singh's name emerged as the front-runner following high-level consultations among party leaders and subsequent discussions with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh top brass, highly placed sources told PTI.
Except RSS Chief K S Sudarshan, the Sangh top brass including its General Secretary Mohan Bhagwat and Joint General Secretary Incharge of BJP affairs Suresh Soni have been camping in the capital over the last couple of days. While Naidu had met the senior Sangh leaders Thursday, party General Secretary Arun Jaitley met them on Friday.
Party General Secretary (Organisation) and Sangh pointsman in BJP Sanjay Joshi has been communicating between the two sides. With southern India, including Naidu's own Andhra Pradesh yielding little dividends for the party despite having three successive Presidents - K Jana Krishnamurthy, Bangaru Laxman and Naidu - both the Sangh and BJP were of the opinion that the party would have to revitalise itself in the north, specially Uttar Pradesh, to revive itself. And none suited the bill more than Rajnath Singh, parivar sources said.
A consensus around Singh's name is understood to have been reached at a meeting senior leaders Advani, Jaswant Singh and Naidu had with Vajpayee Friday morning.
Besides his image as an able administrator, Rajnath Singh is also credited with the party's difficult electoral victories in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
The manner in which he organised the recent agitation in UP in the wake of party MLA Krishnanand Rai's murder in Ghazipur and mobilised the demoralised party cadre has also come in for appreciation from the RSS and BJP top brass.
Though Singh has several rivals in his home turf of UP, including former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and former state party President Kalraj Mishra, he enjoys the blessings of both former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and RSS leader Suresh Soni.
A staunch Rajput leader, Singh had opposed the manner in which UP legislator Raja Bhaiyya and his father were arrested by the then Mayawati Government under POTA.
Party General Secretary Pramod Mahajan had earlier announced that Advani will not resign at the party's silver jubilee national conference and would do so only after that.
He had also stated that the tenure of the next President shall be for a year only since the tenure of the National Council which ratifies the name expires in February 2007.
Sushma Swaraj also continues to be in the race for the top post but lack of a popular base and absence of a Sangh background remains her drawbacks.
Though senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi was said to be keen to occupy the top post and enjoys the blessings of the Sangh fount head, most party leaders are opposed to him. He also did not fit in the cap of a second-generation leader to succeed Advani as desired by the RSS.