New Delhi: Rajnath Singh was on Wednesday unanimously elected president of BJP, capping last minute dramatic turn of events which saw Nitin Gadkari being forced out of the race for the second term.
The 61-year-old senior party leader from Uttar Pradesh takes the baton back from Nitin Gadkari whom he handed over the post in 2009. Watch: Rajnath Singh elected unopposed as BJP president | I am taking over in unhappy circumstances, says Rajnath |
BJP will gain from Rajnath Singh, says Modi | Bihar CM Nitish Kumar congratulates Rajnath Singh | Senior leaders must have clean image for party's bright future, says Advani | Gadkari congratulates Rajnath Singh | Gadkari quits as BJP chief
Gadkari explains why he resigned Also read: Gadkari quits, Rajnath tipped to be new BJP president
Singh, who emerged as the consensus candidate on Tuesday night after Gadkari dramatically opted out of the race for a second term, was the only candidate to file the nominations and was declared elected unopposed.
Gadkari was among the first ones to wish the new party president soon after the announcement by election officer Thawar Chand Gehlot in the presence of top party leaders including LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu.
Gadkari, whose candidature was being pushed strongly by RSS, suddenly quit the race in the midst of allegations of impropriety by his company Purti Group.
I am taking over as BJP president in unhappy circumstances: Rajnath Singh
After taking over, Rajnath Singh said, "I accept this not as a post, but as a responsibility" and said he would take the battle to a decisive end by bringing BJP to power."
He said he was taking over in not very conducive conditions in the wake of allegations levelled against the outgoing chief Nitin Gadkari.
Singh said though the party wanted Gadkari to continue as party president for a second term, but he took a moral high by deciding not to contest for a second term till his name was cleared of all charges.
The new chief exuded confidence of steering the party in the forthcoming assembly elections in various states later this year and expressed the hope to see formation of an NDA regime led by BJP in the next general elections.
A BJP parliamentary board meeting thanked outgoing president Nitin Gadkari for his "dynamic" leadership for the last three years and unanimously endorsed Singh as his successor.
Rajnath Singh and incumbent Nitin Gadkari arrived at the party office in the same car for a meeting of the party's parliamentary board, after which he filed his nomination.
Earlier, Rajnath Singh met party leader LK Advani.
Rajnath Singh was chosen for the BJP president's post after several senior leaders objected over giving a second term to Gadkari, who is facing corruption charges.
Gadkari also made an announcement on Tuesday evening saying he will not seek a second term as he wanted his name cleared of the corruption charges.
The BJP president has traditionally been elected unopposed.
Rajnath's Singh's name emerged after a series of meetings involving party leaders Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Ram Lal and Ananth Kumar.
Revolt in BJP forces out Nitin Gadkari
Rajnath Singh is set to be BJP president, capping an internecine battle that saw two white-moustachioed patriarchs biting the dust but not before thwarting each other.
Nitin Gadkari, the incumbent battling corruption charges and enjoying the blessings of the RSS chief, put in his papers on Tuesday night after it became clear that sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat had run into an ambush attributed to LK Advani.
Advani drew the satisfaction of foiling Bhagwat's candidate but he had to accept the diktat of the RSS that picked Rajnath, a former BJP president.
Till late on Tuesday evening, it appeared that Bhagwat would have his way. But two events appeared to have turned the tide against the RSS chief and Gadkari.
The income tax department searched some premises associated with Gadkari's companies, renewing focus on the corruption charges on him that the BJP chief and the Sangh have stoutly denied. Even then, the Gadkari camp appeared so confident that a media statement referred to his "re-election", only to retract an hour later.
Advani, backed by his peers Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha, refused to accept Bhagwat's proposal to renew Gadkari's term.
Apart from the notion that Gadkari's reinstatement would hobble the BJP's anti-corruption campaign against the UPA, Advani's stiff opposition stemmed from his fear that Gadkari was a front for the Sangh. Sources said the Advani camp had concluded that under Gadkari, Bhagwat hoped to intervene "directly and decisively" in the party's affairs.
Bhagwat, on the other hand, was unprepared to countenance Advani looming like a shadow over the BJP. The RSS-Advani equation, said sources, was so "skewed" with mutual distrust that the Sangh suspected that Advani, once the "apple of its eye", could manipulate himself as a prime minister frontrunner if the BJP gained an edge in the 2014 polls.
In the afternoon, prodded by Advani, Yashwant, the former finance and foreign minister, signalled that he might contest against Gadkari. Sinha sent an emissary to collect the nomination papers and the voter list from the BJP office.
Unlike Mahesh Jethmalani, the Mumbai lawyer supposed to take on Gadkari, nobody regarded Sinha as a "lightweight".
By coincidence, Advani and Gadkari were in Mumbai to attend a Sangh event today and they shared the dais. Both met Suresh "Bhaiyyaji" Joshi, Bhagwat's second-in-command.
Joshi's message to Advani was terse: if he couldn't accept Gadkari, he had to settle for the Sangh's second choice, Rajnath. A similar request earlier was rejected by Advani, who never trusted Rajnath because he saw him as a Sangh "puppet".
Joshi made it clear that none of Advani's nominees were acceptable.
In Delhi, opposition leaders, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were called on by another senior Sangh functionary, Suresh Soni. Sushma's name was earlier broached by Advani. But she declined his offer, signalling that in the power sweepstakes, she opted to be on the RSS's right side.
Former president M Venkaiah Naidu and the general secretary (organisation), Ramlal, were part of the meeting at Jaitley's house.
Word reached from Nagpur, which houses the Sangh headquarters, that Rajnath was the RSS's choice and, by implication, the BJP should endorse his candidacy without ado, the sources said.
Jaitley did have a patchy relationship with Rajnath in the latter's earlier tenure. But sources said he too figured out that a crisis had to be averted and, in the circumstances, the leader from Uttar Pradesh was perhaps the best bet.
Sources said Rajnath was on the Sangh's radar for the past few days. In his first innings, Rajnath had ejected Narendra Modi from the BJP's top decision-making panel, the parliamentary board, ostensibly to please the RSS whose relations with Modi had then plunged to a nadir.
Rajnath has since made up with Modi, around whom the BJP's prime minister debates are swirling.
Many Congress leaders were praying that Gadkari remains BJP president and a permanent punching bag. Asked if the tax raids backfired, a Congress leader demurred and said Gadkari could not claim the moral high ground since he did not voluntarily step down but was hounded out.
Who is Rajnath Singh?
Rajnath Singh was born on July 10, 1951 in a farmer's family in Chanduli.
He received his basic education in the village and subsequently he completed his MSc Physics from Gorakhapur University UP. He worked as a lecturer of Physics at KB Post-Graduate College Mirzapur, UP.
He was an active RSS worker since his student life. He became the RSS karyavah (General Secretary) of Mirzapur city in 1972. Also remained organisational secretary of ABVP Gorakhpur division from 1969 to 1971.
He entered politics in 1974 and soon became secretary of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Mirzaur. In 1975, he became district president of Jana Sangh and district coordinator of JP movement.
He was imprisoned during Emergency. In 1977, he was elected as an MLA in UP Assembly.
In 1983, he became a state secretary of UP BJP and 1984 he became a state president of BJP's Youth Wing (BJYM). In 1986, he became national general secretary of BJYM and subsequently national president of BJYM in 1988.
He was elected MLC for UP Legislative Council in 1988 and became education minister in 1991. During his tenure as education minister in UP he established some landmarks by introducing the Anti Copying Act and Vedic Mathematics in the syllabus and correction of various portions of' history textbooks.
He became MP Rajya Sabha in 1994 and also the chief whip of the BJP in Rajya Sabha.
In 1997, he became state president of UP BJP.
In 1999, he became Union surface transport minister.
In October, 2000, he became chief minister of UP and was twice elected as MLA from Haidargarh constituency in Barabanki. In 2002, he became national general secretary of BJP.
In 2003, he became Union minister of agriculture and subsequently for food processing.
In July 2004, he was again appointed as national general secretary of BJP.
He became the BJP national president in December 2005.
- The Telegraph, Calcutta
Watch: Rajnath Singh elected unopposed as BJP president | I am taking over in unhappy circumstances, says Rajnath | BJP will gain from Rajnath Singh, says Modi | Bihar CM Nitish Kumar congratulates Rajnath Singh | Senior leaders must have clean image for party's bright future, says Advani | Gadkari congratulates Rajnath Singh | Gadkari quits as BJP chief l Gadkari explains why he resigned Also read: Gadkari quits, Rajnath tipped to be new BJP president