New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tuesday unveiled new president Nitin Gadkari’s leadership team, a mix of the young and the old with a view to win the next Lok Sabha battle.
Determined to put the stamp of Gen Next on the party, Gadkari named TV star Smriti Irani, ex-cricketer Navjot Singh Siddhu and MP Varun Gandhi as three of 15 secretaries in the National Executive.
A total of 121 members were named including 13 vice-presidents, 10 general secretaries, 15 secretaries and one treasurer.
‘It is a very fine blend of experience and youth, one which will surely infuse hope among the cadre,’ Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was named the chief spokesman, told reporters.
In line with the BJP’s constitution, the office bearers include 13 women, or a third of the total. In all, there are 40 women.
The National Executive members include veterans including former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani and former party presidents Murali Manohar Joshi, Bangaru Laxman, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh besides Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, leaders of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively.
The Parliamentary Board, which will pick candidates in elections, has 12 members including Vajpayee, Advani, Gadkari, Joshi, Naidu, Rajnath Singh, Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj.
Bollywood star Hema Malini, a crowd puller, was named one of 11 vice presidents along with veterans Shanta Kumar, Kalraj Mishra, Bhagatsingh Koshiyari and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, one of the rare Muslim faces in the party leadership.
Former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje made it to the 10-strong general secretaries in the company of veteran Ananth Kumar, Arjun Munda as well as war-horse Ram Lal, who remains the powerful organisational head.
Smriti Irani, Varun Gandhi, Muralidhar Rao (a former head of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch) and Arati Mehra were named secretaries along with Santosh Gangwar, Siddhu and Kirit Somaiyya.
Himachal Pradesh Forest Minister J.P. Nadda, named a general secretary, said in Shimla: ‘We will try to strengthen the party by expanding its cadre, their ideological grooming and making it fit to rule the country and give the best possible governance.
‘Our president has laid down the roadmap and we will try to implement it across the country. Our main priority would be to form the next government at the centre.’
Added party MP Prabhat Jha: ‘The team is a cocktail of age and experience. New faces have been given an opportunity.’
Party sources said Gadkari, who took charge in December after Rajnath Singh stepped down in the wake of infighting, had accommodated a variety of interests by placating warring lobbies.
While Shanta Kumar, Naqvi, Bijoya Charavarti and Karuna Shukla, who is related to Vajpayee, have been retained as vice-presidents, the new vice-presidents include Katiyar, who is closely identified with the Ayodhya temple movement, Kalraj Mishra, Purushottam Rupala and Kiran Ghai.
Piyush Goyal has been appointed the treasurer in place of Ramdas Agarwal.
The spokespersons include Nirmala Sitharaman, Shahnawaz Hussain, Tarun Vijay, former editor of RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Prakash Javdekar and Ramnath Kovind.
Sources close to Gadkari said that all states and all sections had been represented in the new team.
But not everyone appeared to be happy.
A BJP leader told IANS on the condition of anonymity that the new team was ‘no great shakes’ and that Varun Gandhi’s appointment would only widen the gulf vis-a-vis the Muslim community.
‘I don’t see a clear ideological direction,’ said the leader. ‘He has only tried to keep everyone happy.’