The mood at the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters here after formal assumption of office by the newly elected president Rajnath Singh — hours after the top brass had stalled the second term bid of Nitin Gadkari — was sombre reflecting the rancour in the top echelons of the principal Opposition over the course of events in the past few months.
In his remarks minutes after the formal election the veteran leader from U.P. acknowledged that the circumstances in which he was stepping into Mr. Gadkari’s shoes were not good. The challenges ahead of him were evident with grim news from Karnataka that the State government was on the brink of collapse with the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa showing no signs of reconciliation despite the change of guard in New Delhi.
Senior leader L.K. Advani, who left no stone unturned to prevail upon the RSS not to foist Mr. Gadkari on the party ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election, was blunt with his remark that it was time for the BJP to regain its lost ground as a party with a difference and not differences.
The immediate test for Mr. Singh is to ensure that all senior leaders with prime ministerial ambitions are on board particularly as he is not the unanimous choice. It is well known that during his earlier stint as party chief Mr. Singh did not have the best of equations with Mr. Advani, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley.
Now, the only consolation for Mr. Singh came from warm greetings from Mr. Modi. “I called up Shri Rajnath Singh ji and congratulated him. He brings with him vast experience of both organisation and administration,” Mr. Modi tweeted on social networking site Twitter. “He has always been associated with the farmers. BJP will gain from this,” he said in a second tweet.
A crestfallen Gadkari talked about a conspiracy to deny him a second term. “As far as the election for the second term is concerned, there had been a political conspiracy to link me with a subject with which I had no direct or indirect involvement,” he said in a statement.
Remarks by senior RSS leader M.G. Vaidya to reporters in Nagpur left little scope for doubt about the conviction among influential sections in the RSS that Mr. Gadkari became victim of intrigues within the BJP.
A clear-cut division in the higher ranks of the BJP over his continuance as chief for a second term, prompted Mr. Gadkari to quit the post.