That was also the focus while appointing chief ministers and Union ministers.
New Delhi: Developing the next generation of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders has been one of the factors that has been kept in mind by the duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah while distributing tickets to first timers and in the process retiring many seniors and other leaders who have been in the limelight for long.
Party leaders said that not just during the ticket distributing exercise, even in the past five years while appointing Chief Ministers and Union Ministers, the party leadership has focused on developing a new rank of leaders who will step into the vacancies that will be created in the party in the coming 5-10 years.
Until Thursday, out of the about 350 candidates for the 2019 general elections that were declared by the party, around 63 were new faces. In 2014, the party had contested on 428 seats, winning on 282, a strike rate of around 65%, primarily due to the Modi wave and the massive disenchantment with the Congress-led UPA government. This time it is contesting on 400 seats, with no Modi wave or anti-UPA sentiments to back it. If the BJP is able to achieve the same strike rate (65%) that it got in 2014, it will stop at 260 seats.
In Chhattisgarh, all the 10 sitting MPs and senior party leadr Saroj Pandey, who had unsuccessfully contested from the Durg seat in 2014, were denied tickets this time. In their place, leaders who have worked on the ground for long and are not of a “high profile” nature, were given tickets. Those who were denied tickets include Abhishek Singh, the son of former Chief Minister Raman Singh, who had won from Rajnandgaon in 2014. In Assam, the party gave ticket to Rupak Sharma while denying renomination to senior leader and Union Minister Rajen Gohain.
Commenting on dropping all the sitting MPs, a Chhattisgarh-based BJP leader dismissed as baseless talk among some local party workers that the saffron party had done hara-kiri by giving tickets to new faces. “Every leader is a new face when he fights his first elections. BJP is a party that runs as an organisation rather than working as a private company of a select few. We might lose some of the seats, but in the longer run we will have developed the next rung that will be ready to carry the party’s mantle in the coming years,” he said while giving the example of senior leader Ramesh Bais who is a seven-time MP from Raipur, but has not been given a ticket this time.
A Rajya Sabha MP said that the party leaders have more or less accepted that changing MPs and MLAs, who won in the previous elections, was a normal process in the party now.
“Today’s BJP does not believe in continuing with leaders even if they have outlived their utility. Most of us have understood this. No one among us was surprised when Advaniji, Joshiji were not given tickets. Similarly, in the coming years, many other leaders will be respectfully retired. There is nothing wrong in that, a house needs to be regularly refurbished with new wood if it has to stand strong. Look at Congress, the same faces are calling the shots for more than decades now. Even Rahul Gandhi is now attracting voter fatigue,” he commented while giving the example of Sarbananda Sonowal in Assam and Biplab Kumar Deb in Tripura to illustrate how the party was open to new faces.
However, in the politically significant state of Bihar, a party leader accepted that not too many young faces had come up and called it a cause of concern. “Bihar is a state where we do not see young faces who can exude potential for the long run. One reason for that perhaps is that we have been in coalition for too long and hence the space we have is limited. However, you will see that all the present senior faces will be asked to move to the background in the coming 2-3 years,” the leader quoted said.
Commenting on the dropping of prominent names and sitting MPs, a BJP Union Minister said, “The party leadership has given a message that no one is bigger than the party and unlike in the past, a candidate will not be repeated in case his performance has not been good. In Chhattisgarh, all the MPs were changed as they failed to help the party in the state Assembly elections and even Raman Singh’s son was not spared. This way we have punished the non-performers and also developed the second rung,” a top party leader said. According to him, this way the party in the long run will drive home a point in the minds of the legislatures and parliamentarians that seniority and lineage cannot be used to overshadow incompetence.
“Look at Delhi, we brought in a totally new face, Manoj Tiwari while relegating the seniors to the background as they had failed. Tiwari is doing a good job. In this new BJP, no leader can take his position in the party for granted. If Tiwari fails in this election, he might be asked to make way for someone else. In Bangalore, we have given the opportunity to a young man despite strong pressure from a section within the party to give the ticket to the wife of late Ananth Kumar. The gist is that now every leader and functionary has to be active 24×7 365 days in a year,” the functionary quoted above said. According to him, for leaders like Smriti Irani, too, this was the last chance as if she failed to win this time, then it will become untenable to repeat her.
“Leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh have contributed immensely to the party and by 2024, they will be on the last leg of their political careers. We need to develop the next generation to replace them, which the party president has been doing ably and that can be gauged from the way young faces like Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goel, J.P. Nadda were given prominent posts by him,” the RS MP said.