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NITIN'S IN AGAIN.

Gadkari weathers opposition to be firm favourite for second innings as BJP boss but will need Modi's backing

BHARATIYA Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari appears to have successfully weathered the storm over the murky dealings of Purti Power and Sugar Ltd, the company promoted by him, to bounce back as firm favourite for a second stint as party chief.

Sources said that backed by his benefactors in the RSS he has been able the ride over the opposition to a second term as party boss after the Purti controversy gave a handle to his opponents in the BJP and seemed to have scuppered his re- election prospects.

In short, not only has Gadkari wriggled his way back as the Nagpur establishment's favourite candidate for the job, there are strong indications that he has managed to convince the RSS bosses about his innocence in the Purti case.

" Gadkari is the clear front- runner. The scales have tilted back in his favour in recent days," said an RSS insider. BJP sources agreed, saying that because of his RSS backing, Gadkari will sail through in the party's presidential polls.

Organisational elections in the BJP, which culminate in the election of the party president, is expected to be completed by January 14, which also coincides with the auspicious day of Makar Sakranti, and all indications point to Gadkari getting a second term in office.

Gadkari's candidature is being backed by the two Opposition leaders in Parliament -- Sushma Swaraj, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley, leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha -- and party general secretary Ananth Kumar. However, it is being opposed by party veteran and former deputy prime minister L. K. Advani. The BJP parliamentary party chairperson has made no bones about his displeasure with Gadkari's presidentship especially against the backdrop of the Purti controversy.

However, BJP sources indicated it might not be plain sailing for the BJP president for one very important reason. Gadkari's chances of getting a second innings as BJP president will have to be endorsed by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who, after leading the party to its third straight win in the state under his stewardship, has emerged as a powerful player in the party's scheme of things.

" The Gujarat chief minister has his own ideas about running the party's affairs, and the RSS leadership can ignore his views on the BJP's top job at its own peril. Modi would ideally like to have a person anointed as party president who could execute his ideas," said a senior BJP leader who did not wish to be named. Modi has not revealed his cards on the subject so far, but, given the strong cadre backing enjoyed by him, his views cannot be ignored by the RSS brass.

For now, the election schedule has been set rolling. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the BJP's chief spokesperson, said: " The process of presidential elections is on. A large number of state level elections have already been held and we hope to see it concluded by this month. On who will be next president, he refused to be drawn into the subject.

Even though the BJP constitution does not specify a time frame by which a party president has to be elected, by all indications the next BJP chief will be duly elected at the meeting of the party's national council likely to be held either in mid- February or March this year.

The national executive and national council meetings of the BJP are generally held in pollbound states, and chances are that Madhya Pradesh will host the event, which will formally give its approval to the president- elect.

The party constitution makes it mandatory for at least 50 per cent of the state units to have completed the process of organisational polls before the schedule for electing the new president is announced. As of Wednesday, as many as 13 state units had wound up organisational elections and another six were expected to complete the process by January 14.

The states and union territories where organisational polls have already run the course include Madhya Pradesh, Goa, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Tripura, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Sikkim, Manipur, Lakshadweep and Puducherry.

Another six -- Bihar, Jharkhand, Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi and Uttarakhand-- were expected to join the group by mid- January.

Organisational elections in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have been put off on the ground that they are going to polls later in the year, but this has not deterred the party from completing the process in another poll- bound state, Madhya Pradesh.

Thawar Chand Gehlot, the general secretary in- charge of elections, is expected to finalise the schedule for presidential elections after the conclusion of the organisational polls.

There are strong indications that Gadkari has managed to convince RSS bosses about his innocence & has reclaimed his status as the firm favourite as the BJP chief

BJP PRESIDENT POLL

SCENARIO 1:

With RSS unwavering in its support to him, Nitin Gadkari gets a second term in office. BJP constitution has already been amended to allow an incumbent a second term

SCENARIO 2:

After leading the BJP to a comfortable victory in Gujarat for the third time, an emboldened Narendra Modi puts a spanner in the RSS game plan, decides to back his own candidate which could be Sushma Swaraj

SCENARIO 3:

RSS and Modi arrive at a compromise, and agree to anoint a leader other than Gadkari as party president.

Past chiefs such as Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu fancy their chances. A dark horse like Shanta Kumar or Sushma Swaraj could emerge the winner

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 3, 2013
Words:953
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