Jana Krishnamurthi may be next BJP chief

NEW DELHI, JULY 20. Mr. Jana Krishnamurthi appears to be emerging as the consensus candidate for the post of Bharatiya Janata Party president after a clear signal that Mr. Kushabhau Thakre is opting out of a second term on grounds of ill-health.

It was the Union Home Minister, Mr. L.K.Advani, who disclosed on Wednesday that Mr. Thakre had already conveyed to him that he would not like to seek a second term as party president. It was confirmed by some other party leaders today that Mr. Thakre had also expressed similar views to them over the last few weeks.

Party leaders will be finalising by consensus who the next party chief should be over the next week, well before August 1 when the week-long process of nominations for the party's top job will begin. The election of the party president will mark the end of the BJP's organisational elections although in a few States, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, elections will be concluded later.

Unless there is some sudden change of mind, all indications are that Mr. Krishnamurthi - party vice-president, RSS member of 50 years standing and a lawyer by training - is set to take over as BJP president.

Although in the late Fifties the Jan Sangh did have a party president from the South, Mr. A. Rao from Andhra Pradesh, in the BJP Mr. Krishnamurthi could well become the first party president from South of the Vindhyas.

All that Mr. Krishnamurthi, who hails from Tamil Nadu, himself would say today was: ``Mr. Advani's disclosure has ended speculation, and as indicated by him, a consensus on a new party president will pose no problem at all.''

Another party vice-president, Mr J.P. Mathur, said a party president is never selected on the basis of the caste or region to which he belongs, but naturally, if a person from the South is given the top job, it would help the party in the region where it has begun establishing a base.

As for the party cadre, North, South, East or West did not make a difference; the workers would like their leader to be a person who was well respected and known in the party.

While Mr. Thakre was essentially an organiser, Mr. Krishnamurthi is seen to be a person who could give the party much needed direction and leadership, qualities that Mr. Thakre failed to demonstrate.

The nominations for the BJP president's post will end on August 7 and latest by August 8, the day of scrutiny, the party's choice will be known.

As always in the BJP, different States will send nomination papers in favour of the same person after the top leadership arrives at a consensus. And senior party leaders confirm that in this process an affirmative nod from both Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr. L.K. Advani was essential. Besides, the leadership of the parent body of the BJP, the RSS, would also have to give the green signal.