Mumbai: A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national executive meeting adopted an amendment to its constitution, paving the way for Nitin Gadkari to continue as president for a second three-year term.
The meeting started with high drama after Sanjay Joshi, an invitee to the meeting and bête noire of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, resigned. Immediately after Joshi’s resignation was confirmed by Gadkari to the media, Modi, who was not expected to attend the meeting, announced in Udaipur that he will attend in the afternoon and rushed to Mumbai.
Meanwhile, the BJP seized on the public anger against the increase in the petrol price on Wednesday, and L.K. Advani, a senior party leader and working chairman of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), called for a nationwide strike to protest against the price rise on 31 May. Party leaders have indicated that NDA-ruled states may not revoke state taxes to reduce the burden of the price increase. In his presidential address, Gadkari blamed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for the increase.
Plan of Action: Nitin Gadkari. Photo by Rajanish Kakade/AP.
The executive meeting was overshadowed by Joshi’s resignation, and the assertion of Modi as a party heavyweight, whose differences with the party leadership were acknowledged by Gadkari, who expected these to have been resolved. “Now I am confident Modi will work with me shoulder-to-shoulder for building the party,” Gadkari said while announcing Joshi’s resignation. Joshi had been forced to step down as party general secretary in 2005 during the BJP national conclave over allegations of a relationship with a party worker.
Former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who had abstained from the meeting, told reporters in Bangalore that the “BJP should project Modi as prime minister”.
Gadkari set a target for the party to expand the NDA, increase the BJP’s vote share by 10% and boost its base among minorities, Dalits, tribals and marginalized sections before the 2014 general elections.
While taking stock of the BJP’s electoral performance, the party president assessed the performance as “below expectations” and admitted that the BJP could not project itself as a “credible and strong alternative”.
Changing course: Gujarat chief minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi arrives at the party’s national executive meeting in Mumbai on Thursday. Modi, who was not expected to attend the meet, rushed to Mumbai in the afternoon after party president Nitin Gadkari announced the resignation of Sanjay Joshi, Modi’s bête noire. The BJP’s national executive meeting, meanwhile, adopted an amendment to its constitution, paving the way to extend Gadkari’s term for another three years. Photo by PTI.
In another significant announcement, the BJP said it backs direct cash transfers to farmers, an idea mooted by the Congress-led UPA government. The resolution on agriculture passed at the national executive meeting demanded that the government open “compulsory bank accounts for all farmers in the country and transfer all MSP (minimum support price) payments, subsidies, indemnities and other payments in cash directly to farmers”.
The government’s direct transfer proposals had been opposed by BJP leader and Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh. However, senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh, who presented the resolution on agriculture said, “Nutrient-based subsidy policy regime should be rolled back to safeguard farmers from rising prices of phosphate and potash fertilizers.”
The party said it is opposed to genetically modified crops and asked the government to impose a moratorium on them, as it would not increase productivity. “These crops will pollute the seeds of traditional varieties. Multinational companies want to destroy India’s seed security. This will hamper India’s food security,” Rajnath Singh said while briefing reporters on the resolution on agriculture.
Blaming the UPA for neglecting farmers and agriculture, the BJP also asked the government to cut the farm loan interest rate to 1% and sought a wider debate on the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill.
While reiterating its stated position on the presidential polls, Gadkari said his party is trying to build consensus among non-Congress parties.