Rajnath too may have to go with Advani

Manohar Parikkar, Nitin Gadkari in contention for top post?

Rajnath too may have to go with Advani

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat

The series of consultations that RSS head Mohan Bhagwat held with a wide section of the BJP leadership during the last 48 hours has provided a “broad outline” for a succession plan which may kickstart with Advani making exit as the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajnath as the party chief, sources indicated.

Indications are that Advani, in deference to his stature, may be allowed to name his successor. It was not immediately clear if he would be asked to step down now, or allowed the luxury of remaining in the top post until the end of his present tenure in December.

Until Friday, there was no word from the RSS leadership about its assessment of the Rajnath leadership. With indications emerging from the Sangh about replacing Rajnath, there were talks in the RSS circles that Bhagwat has disapproved of his style of functioning. It is suggested that his handling of the party affairs too might have contributed to the crisis.

While several names from the second-rung leaders have been doing the rounds for succeeding Rajnath as party chief, the latest speculation in Sangh Parivar circles was that the RSS might come up with surprise names to head the party. Among the leaders being mentioned in this regard are former Goa chief minister Manohar Parikkar, Maharashtra BJP unit chief Nitin Gadkari (both relatively young) and Kalraj Mishra, a senior leader from UP. While Kalraj does not fit into the 50-60 age group preferred by Bhagwat, Parikkar (53) and Gadkari (52) eminently meet this criterion.

Sources said “no names have been firmed up so far as replacements for Advani and Rajnath.” They also avoided lending any credence to reports that Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and M Venkaiah Naidu have been short-listed for the top party post. Jaitley is the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha while Sushma Swaraj is Advani’s deputy in the Lok Sabha.

Advani meets Bhagwat

Already under intense pressure to make way for younger leaders, Advani met Bhagwat on Saturday for the second time in the last four days. The veteran leader, who drove to the Jhandewalan office of the RSS in the capital, was closeted with the RSS chief for over one hour.  

On his part, Bhagwat drove to the residence of former BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi, a political rival of Advani, and gave a patient hearing to the latter’s views. His meeting with Joshi is considered a follow-up to the consultations he had on Friday with Jaitley, Swaraj, Naidu and Ananth Kumar.

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