Narendra Modi takes centre stage with aide Shah, Rajnath has his say

Narendra Modi

With an eye on a clutch of Assembly polls this year and the general elections ahead, BJP president Rajnath Singh inducted Narendra Modi into the party's apex decision-making bodies parliamentary board and central election committee on Sunday, marking the Gujarat Chief Minister's gradual ascendancy in the BJP.

Singh also inducted Modi's key political confidant Amit Shah along with Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Varun Gandhi and Murlidhar Rao as general secretaries, to handle organisational affairs, along with six old faces. While Gujarat leader Shah is facing charges of criminal conspiracy in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, Varun was only cleared recently in hate speech cases filed against him in 2009 (another case, of violence outside the district jail is pending).

Modi will now share stage at the centre with 11 old members Rajnath Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Ramlal in steering the BJP's national affairs, including the choice of its prime ministerial candidate for the next elections.

Indicating that the BJP is keeping options on projecting Modi as campaign committee chief or PM candidate open, a senior party office-bearer said on his future: "Things happen gradually."

While Modi's induction was a foregone conclusion after his third consecutive Assembly election victory in Gujarat in December, the bid by a section of the party leaders to push Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's case failed.

However, the BJP ensured that no one else in a position to challenge Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh in an election year was upgraded. Consequently, former state unit chief Prabhat Jha and former state chief minister Uma Bharti were anointed party vice-presidents in a token high position with little organisational influence.

Playing down the "setback" to Chouhan, a party leader said: "There was only one position vacant at the high table. Technically speaking, Modi is senior as compared to Chouhan and (Chhattisgarh CM) Raman Singh, and given the clamour for him within the cadre, it makes political sense to bring him to the national stage. It is not going to create heartburn anywhere."

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