PERFORM OR PERISH, NEW BJP CHIEF'S MANTRA
From Our Bureau
NEW DELHI: The 52-year old Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday formally took over as the new Bhartiya Janata Party president, declaring himself as a management guru committed to run with a team of performers as his new office-bearers and say "Namaste" to those who fail.
The team will be constituted in consultation with the state party chiefs and leaders of various BJP morchas (frontal bodies). Once organising general secretary Ramlal identifies them, he will constitute the team and decentralise powers to let the office-bearers act like self-starting engines, without his interference.
He also announced to evolve an internal performance audit mechanism in the states where the BJP is in power to ensure "good governance" at every level.
Gadkari conducted his first 90-minute long Press conference at the party headquarters here like a typical RSS "Bauddhiki" (class) as if giving clarifications to the cadres and presented himself alike the social reformers who think century to century and not poll to poll.
VIKAS & SEVA: He asked every BJP member to actively associate with at least one "Vikas" (development) and "Seva" (service) project in his or her area of work. His clear message to them was: "Politics cannot be a battlefield for power. Rather, it should be an instrument for socio-economic reform and nation building."
Then why BJP still hobnobbing to get into power in Jharkhand despite verdict against it? He said the party never shirks responsibility and hence his predecessor Rajnath Singh has been empowered to handle the Jharkhand issue. He also made it clear that victory or defeat in polls is a collective responsibility and no individuals will be blamed.
His prime task during the 3-year tenure will be "political and organisational planning" in consultation with all in a spirit of collective leadership to rebuild mutual trust. He welcomed anybody in the party criticise him but he won't tolerate indiscipline. "Either convince me or get convinced," will be his rule to handle critics.
OLD AGENDA: He talked of his commitment to "Antyodaya" (priority to the last person, the most deprived, in the queue), but no word on Ayodhya or Article 370 abolition or uniform civil code and hence he was asked if he was relegating them after years as prime agenda. Gadkari quipped that he was not deviating from the party's ideals. "No need to say issues do not change when the President changes."
The very first question shot at him was on Congress scion Rahul Gandhi dining at Dalits' houses and he dismissed it saying: "Karne dijiye. Meri Shubh kamnayen. (Let him do. My good wishes.)" One reason behind installing Gadkari as the president is also to counter the build-up of Rahul by Congress.
OLD GUARDS' RETURN: In Nagpur, he had talked on Sunday to rope back the party leaders like Govindacharya (former general secretary) and Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh(former chief ministers). Asked how soon, he quipped that no proposal has come from them and the party will definitely consider if they seek a re-entry.
Asked if he will not be overawed by so many party stalwarts in Delhi, Gadkari said his experience in the last two days is different. It can happen only in BJP where an ordinary worker who once pasted party posters on walls could rise to be the President and all stalwarts declaring that they stand behind him.
In reply to another question, he denied the BJP in Maharashtra became leaderless because those like him and former CM Gopinath Munde shifting to Delhi. He said he has not yet quit as the Maharashtra BJP President but the successor will be decided in consultation with top seven, eight leaders of the state. And so far as he being an MLC, he has "already left Vidhan Parishad mentally."
Morally he can not aspire to get into the Rajya Sabha when he asks partymen not to use politics to build own career and so he has decided "suo moto" not to occupy any position nor to contest polls. Asked if that means he will also keep out MPs and MLAs from his team of office-bearers, he said they will be picked up as per their organisational skill to perform and not otherwise.
NO RSS HAND: Stoutly denying the RSS hand in his selection as the BJP President and it playing a crucial role in the party's decisions, Gadkari said he was the Maharashtra BJP president for four years and got no orders from RSS nor did it interfere. "Whenever we require, we talk to them (RSS) and that is all."
Asked if he would talk to senior BJP leaders and former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie wanting the RSS to take over reins of the BJP, Gadkari said the RSS neither wants to take over the party nor does it dictate. Not all in BJP belong to the 'Sangh' (RSS) and there are those like whom who have accepted the Sangh "vichar" (ideology), he said.
RAJASTHAN IMBROGLIO: He also denied to have come under pressure of leaders like former chief minister Vasundhara Raje to put off the Rajasthan BJP president's election slated on Thursday. "No pressure. It is wrong," he asserted, pointing out that he and other leaders like M Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley sat with the state leaders for six to seven hours as he wanted to put a "full stop" to the problem and the solution ultimately emerged at 9 pm.
"All will contest the Panchayat elections (in Rajasthan) unitedly and there will be a collective discussion with all leaders in the next two to four days," he added.
In his introductory remarks, he said BJP is and remains an "India First" party with nationalism or nation building as its ideological foundation. "The BJP remains committed to genuine secularism (Sarva Dharma Sama bhav), not vote-bank secularism. It brooks no distinction or discrimination between citizens of India on the lines of caste, religion, language, region or ethnicity. India belongs to all, and all belong to India."
He talked of galvanisation of the party organisation at all levels and striving for its geographical expansion to make it further strong and unified as his first priority. He also vowed to the party's stand of zero-tolerance towards terrorism and Naxalism "inspired by anti-national foreign ideology of Maoism."
He also asked his well-wishers not to offer him flowers or garlands but put the money they may be spending in a box put before his office for "Kisan Sahayata Kosh" that he had started while in Nagpur for the benefit of families of the Vidarbha farmers who have committed suicide.