New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rajnath Singh was on Wednesday elected unopposed as the party president for the term 2013 to 2015. He succeeded Nitin Gadkari, who decided against contesting for a second term following charges of corruption against him. Singh has been BJP's president between 2006 and 2009 also.
A resolution supporting Singh as the new party chief was unanimously adopted by the parliamentary board of the party, after which he filed his nomination papers. BJP Returning Officer Thawar Chand Gehlot announced that 17 other nominations were also filed in Singh's favour.
As soon as the announcement was made, Singh touched senior BJP leader LK Advani's feet to seek his blessings. Along with Advani, those present on the stage were Murli Manohar Joshi, Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Ananth Kumar.
Gadkari was all set to continue as the BJP president but in a dramatic turn on Tuesday, he announced that he would not seek a second term after controversies have erupted over his name for the top post. It was then that Singh's name was proposed and party leaders reached a consensus on him. "I will continue to serve as a soldier and will stand by whoever is elected as president," Gadkari had said.
Through the day on Tuesday, as the Income Tax department started carrying out surveys of investments in Purti group, Gadkari remained confident. Even when party leader Yashwant Sinha, a known Gadkari detractor, teamed up with Mahesh Jethmalani and threatened to challenge Gadkari's presidential nomination, he was steadfast. But it was at a meeting in Mumbai with Advani and RSS leader Bhaiyaji Joshi, that Gadkari finally relented. Singh initially was the second choice for the RSS as the Sangh was adamant till the end to back Gadkari.
As controversies swirled around Gadkari on Tuesday, a serious attempt was made by the BJP leadership to work out an alternative. In Delhi, senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley went into a huddle with RSS leader Ram Lal. In Mumbai, in the meeting between Gadkari, Advani and Bhaiyaji Joshi, Advani reportedly stated bluntly that he was ready to support anyone but Gadkari.
Gadkari himself suggested that if there was no consensus on him, Singh can be the BJP president. The anti-Gadkari camp in the BJP felt vindicated with this move. "It is something good, which is happening. I hope that the people and BJP will realise the advice that I gave long ago was a sound advice. I feel more than vindicated," said BJP leader and lawyer Ram Jethmalani.
But for a party which claims to challenge the Congress in the next general elections, inability to choose a president of its own choice after issuing a notification bears ominous signs for the future.
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