Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI: Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh may be quitting his position earlier than January-February next year by when the election for a new party president is likely to take place.

It is believed that Mr. Singh has conveyed to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leadership that he would like to be relieved of his responsibility as soon as possible. The reason being given is that the party constitution allows the installation of an “interim president” till the formality of the election process is completed and the new president’s position is ratified by the party’s National Council. He could also give temporary charge to a party vice-president till the new president is elected.

Some party leaders have said that he may hand over charge to Nitin Gadkari (currently Maharashtra State unit president), whose name has more or less been finalised for the top party job, in the next few days or weeks. With the winter session starting on November 19, the “change” may be postponed to end of December.

Since the electoral college for a presidential election in the party is composed of members of the National Council sent as representative of State units, the party constitution requires at least 50 per cent of the States to have completed their organisational election process.

But, in the BJP there has never been a contested election. Candidates are “selected” and then “elected” by “consensus.”

A leader familiar with the party constitution and precedents pointed out that Mr. Venkaiah Naidu took over as party president in July 2002 without going through the motions of an election; then L.K. Advani took charge from him when Mr. Naidu stepped down after the 2004 Lok Sabha election; and Mr. Rajnath Singh took charge from Mr. Advani after he stepped down at the end of 2005, six months after the Jinnah episode. Mr. Singh was later elected. Mr. Singh has been party president for almost four years — since January 2006. He has now almost completed his three-year tenure after completing the unfinished tenure of Mr. Advani.

Three reasons

Several reasons are being forwarded by insiders for the decision to step down. Mr. Rajnath Singh publicly accepted full responsibility for the 2009 Lok Sabha defeat at the party’s national executive committee meeting that followed the debacle and privately he conveyed to the RSS that he wished to quit. But, he was asked to continue.

Now that a name has been finalised for the job, Mr. Singh has become a lame-duck president.

And three, with the installation of Mr. Gadkari, Mr. Advani may not be able to come up with the reason already given by his camp for staying on in the job of Leader of Opposition: that he wished to help install a new party president and ensure a smooth transition of power to the next generation of leaders.