BJP change of guard to have ripple effect

The change of guard in the BJP's national team is bound to have far reaching effects on the saffron party's unit in Punjab, say political pundits.

With Rajnath Singh replacing Nitin Gadkari for a second term as national president of the BJP, several leaders - such as Harjit Singh Grewal, Vijay Sampla, Avinash Rai Khanna and Brij Lal Rinva - who had remained sidelined in the state unit, are now looking forward to playing key roles.

All these leaders are known to be close to Rajnath Singh with Grewal remaining the BJP national secretary during Rajnath's previous term.

Khanna and Rinva had remained as presidents of the Punjab BJP while Sampla was the party general secretary. At present, Grewal and Khanna are in the national executive of the party while Sampla and Rinva are in the national council, but have no active role in the state unit.

Also, the newly-elected state unit president Kamal Sharma is reportedly close to Rajnath and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitely, while his predecessor, Ashwani Sharma, was considered close to Gadkari.

The power equations are likely to change, as the state unit is set to name the office bearers. It is expected that changes might be effected in the "BJP quota" of the Parkash Singh Badal led government.

Earlier, some party leaders wanted Bahgat Chunni Lal to be dropped from the state cabinet and replaced by Ashwani Sharma, who has not been "rehabilitated" yet. However, with the change of guard in the national unit, the local leaders are now adopting a wait and watch policy as the final call on any change in its cabinet quota will be taken by the party's central high command. The party has four cabinet berths with Chunni Lal, Madan Mohan Mittal, Anil Joshi and Surjit Jiyani as ministers.

Meanwhile, two senior leaders, Prof Rajinder Bhandari and Tikshan Sud, are now in race for the post of political adviser to the Punjab Chief Minister, a post held by Kamal Sharma.

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