80-plus brigade told to make way for second-rung leadership

In January, before electioneering and ticket distribution picked up pace, the BJP dismissed the idea of the “younger generation” taking over from the seasoned colleagues, claiming that “youth” will not be allowed overshadow “experience” in the Lok Sabha polls.

Less than two months later, the way the older generation is being asked to step aside for newer and younger colleagues shows change is the order of the day in the party.

BJP patriarch L.K. Advani had to put up a fight to contest the elections rather than be sent to the House of Elders. Yashwant Sinha has quietly opted out, content with ticket for his son Jayant from Hazirbagh in Jharkhand. Kailash Joshi has announced retirement from electoral politics. Murli Manohar Joshi had to vacate Varanasi for the prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi.

Lalji Tondon and Jaswant Singh have been verbose about being dropped and a dozen others, including Kalraj Mishra, Uma Bharti and Surya Pratap Shahi, are on the list of disgruntled leaders. Senior leader Sushma Swaraj’s open disagreement over certain decisions has been overlooked.

The party denies the “shift,” but there is a subtle message for the “80-plus” brigade to yield space to the second rung leadership which itself is nearing 60s.

“At the time of contesting elections in 2009, a number of senior leaders announced that it would be their last but in the current scenario where the mood is in favour of the party and there is enough evidence that there will be a BJP-led government, nobody wants to miss the chance of being on the winning side. While the older generation is not being disrespected, there is a prevalent feeling that the second-rung leaders who have been working for years and nearing their 60s, too, need a chance,” said a functionary.

The open rebellion by the seniors against their being sidelined is countered with arguments that ticket distribution is a “carefully layered exercise” and that the party functions in a democratic way.

“Ours is an open, democratic party. We respect our leaders and we try to convince them,” a senior functionary said, dismissing the fault lines that have begun to show. But on Saturday the differences were further reinforced when actor Paresh Rawal pipped Advani loyalist Harin Pathak to the post and was chosen candidate for Ahmedabad East.

Correction and Clarification

>>“Yashwant Sinha has quietly opted out, content with ticket for his son Jayant from Hazirbagh in Bihar.” So said a sentence in “In BJP, change is order of the day” (March 23, 2014). Hazirbagh is in Jharkhand.

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