In the midst of speculations over who will succeed Rajnath Singh, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Wednesday clarified that it was not against four Delhi-based senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, who the RSS chief had virtually ruled out as party president.
In a rare statement, RSS All-India Propaganda Chief Manmohan Vaid said, "Reports that the Sangh is against four senior leaders of the BJP are completely false. M Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar are all senior leaders of the BJP and the Sangh has had cordial relations with them for a long time."
The statement comes against the backdrop of interviews given by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in which he had indicated that the new party president should be from outside Delhi.
The RSS also denied that it had a role in deciding the next BJP president.
"There are false reports in the media regarding the role of the Sangh in deciding the new BJP president," Vaid said, adding, "The Sangh has neither suggested anybody's name nor opposed any name for the post of BJP president".
Vaid said Sangh office holders gave their opinion to BJP leaders whenever they sought it but the Sangh did not interfere in the party's decision making.
The statement has come at a time when Rajnath Singh has expressed his desire to step down even before a new president takes over.
Singh had informed BJP's top brass last week of his decision to quit, but they and the RSS prevailed upon him to continue till December, by when his successor would be formally chosen and elections in Jharkhand would be over, according to a senior party leader.
He said Singh had made up his mind to quit his post nearly 10 days ago, but the party leadership prevailed upon him to continue till December.
"Rajnath Singh was told that one-and-a-half months of his tenure are still left. It was suggested that he could step down a few days before his term ends but doing so now would be too premature. Moreover, his resignation may send a wrong message to the party cadre and the electorate in Jharkhand," a senior party leader said.
RSS leaders were also understood to have taken a similar stand. They reportedly told Singh that though the election of Maharashtra BJP chief Nitin Gadkari to the top post was now a certainty, he should continue for the time being.
Singh may stay put till the second week of December and then put in his papers, informed the senior leader.
Singh was nominated as the BJP president on November 26, 2006. This decision was endorsed by the party National Executive held in Lucknow on December 24, 2006. The leader said Singh may resign a week before the latter date.
Till then, Singh will carry on his responsibilities in a full-fledged manner, the leader said.
Singh will move the adjournment motion on behalf of the BJP in the Lok Sabha on Thursday against the Sugarcane (Control) Amendment Order, 2009.
Singh is scheduled to spend nearly a week in Jharkhand campaigning for his party. The BJP is hoping for a positive electoral result in the state that has been under President's Rule for the last few months.
However, the election process for the post of the BJP president is still a long way from completion. Since several states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Haryana, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka have not held state unit polls, election of the party president is unlikely to be held before January end.
Meanwhile, a party leader said Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whose name was earlier doing the rounds for the post of party president, had himself told the BJP and the RSS that he was not keen on accepting the post at this juncture.
"Modi will complete his term as chief minister in 2012, when the BJP presidential elections will also be held. He may become party president then, which will put him in a strong position in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls," the leader said.