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The Bharatiya Janata Party’s “farmer face,” Rajnath Singh, took over as party President here on Wednesday. Singh, who was the unanimous choice to replace Nitin Gadkari, will have a second term in the office.

Singh, who presided over the BJP’s defeat in 2009 elections, will now have to lead the party in the general elections scheduled in 2014. The party also faces a tough contest in States such as Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, where Assembly elections will be held this year.

The BJP top brass believes that Singh’s experience as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Cabinet Minister during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime will help the party revive its fortunes in the upcoming elections.

The BJP will also use Singh’s image as a farmer-friendly politician. Singh has been critical of various reform steps taken by the UPA Government, particularly on the farm front. “I firmly believe that NDA will form the Government in 2014,” Singh said soon after taking over charge, and said the Congress was responsible for the “troubled situation” in the country today.

A proponent of “swadeshi” ideology, Singh has been maintaining that the country should focus on agricultural growth to become a super power. “We can only become a super power if India becomes the ‘agri capital’ of the world,” Singh had recently said at a farmers’ rally in New Delhi.

Gadkari, who was set to get a second term, decided not to contest the elections after the income tax raid at his company’s offices in Mumbai.

Singh’s election was made possible as the RSS brokered peace with a big section of the BJP leadership, who opposed a second term for Gadkari.

In an apparent dig at Gadkari, senior leader L.K. Advani said Singh’s biggest responsibility would be to ensure that there was no compromise with any immoral behaviour in the party.

“We should prove that this is a party with a difference and not a party of differences as our opponents say,” Advani said.

jigeesh.am@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 23, 2013)
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