An overhaul of the BJP Parliamentary Board, the highest-decision making body in the party, and the Central Election Commission is on the cards with the exit of M. Venkaiah Naidu after his election as the country’s Vice President. Speculation is rife over the possible induction of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and General Secretary Ram Madhav into the Parliamentary Board. After becoming Vice President, Naidu is no longer a BJP member and hence his elevation to the second top constitutional post has caused vacancies in both the bodies.
Sources in BJP said Shah wants to replace Naidu with a south Indian face and is believed to have mooted the name of Sitharaman. But this has not gone well with a section of top leaders, who feel they have not been taken into confidence on the issue. This section is also miffed that it was not consulted when former Minister of State for HRD Mahendra Nath Pandey was appointed the Uttar Pradesh BJP chief.
The issue also figured in a meeting on Wednesday evening of senior leaders including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. The 11-member Parliamentary Board chaired by Shah has Prime Minister Narendra Modi, union ministers Rajnath Singh, Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Gadkari, Ananth Kumar, Thawarchand Gehlot, Jagat Prakash Nadda, Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister) and General secretary (organisation) Ram Lal as its members.
According to the BJP constitution, the National Executive of the party constitutes the Parliamentary Board consisting of the party president and 10 others, including the leader of the party in Parliament, as members. The Chairman of the Board would be the President and one of the General Secretaries would be nominated by the BJP President to act as the board Secretary.
Shah had earlier reconstituted the Board when he became the BJP President. He had dropped party veterans — former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and former President and union minister Murli Manohar Joshi — from the body. Shah had inducted Shivraj Singh Chouhan and J.P. Nadda to the Board. Nadda was then BJP’s General Secretary and nominated by Shah. Nadda is Secretary of the Parliamentary Board. Nadda later joined the Modi cabinet.
Under the BJP constitution, Shah would have to nominate one among the present general secretaries as Secretary of the Board. Among the eight general secretaries, Ram Madhav, also from the south, looks like being selected for the job, the sources said. Shah also needs to reconstitute the Central Election Committee (CEC). The CEC finalises the names of candidates for elections to state assemblies, Parliament and other bodies. Naidu was also a member of the CEC.
Reconstitution of these top bodies looks imminent as seven states — Gujarat, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram — are due to go to the polls. The BJP Parliamentary Board also decides on questions like whether the party goes to polls with a Chief Ministerial face or without it. Shah was elected unopposed as President of the Bharatiya Janata Party in January 2016 for a second term, this time for a full tenure of three years.
Since then, Shah has been working with his old team. Shah had earlier completed Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s interrupted tenure as BJP President from July 2014. Another area where Shah is likely to focus attention is on the reconstitution of office bearers in the BJP headquarters here.