Change of guard: JP Nadda takes over as BJP president, he has big shoes to fill

In a significant organisational leadership change for BJP, JP Nadda has taken over as party president replacing Amit Shah. Nadda’s elevation has been in the making for some time and comes almost seven months after he was made the working president. That responsibility was given to him when Shah was made the Union home minister after BJP swept the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. BJP’s internal rules state that a person can’t hold more than one post, whether in party or government. That Nadda has risen unopposed also indicates the degree of trust reposed in him by the prime minister, home minister and other top functionaries of the party. Plus, it lessens the load on Shah who can now devote his full energy to the home ministry.

Of course Nadda has very big shoes to fill. Under Shah’s presidency BJP has seen unprecedented expansion. Not only has the party membership expanded manifold since 2014, Shah is credited with creating an electoral juggernaut that has steamrolled through the length and breadth of the country. His astute electoral management, including the introduction of panna pramukhs, has been the perfect foil for PM Narendra Modi’s charisma.

Nadda has to first consolidate all that BJP has achieved while facing a slew of new challenges that include anti-incumbency against BJP in the states. The party lost Jharkhand, was unable to form government in Maharashtra and just about made it in Haryana. There’s also ally trouble with many BJP partners uncomfortable with the party’s aggressive approach, particularly on controversial issues like CAA and NRC. A key question is whether Nadda will seek to soften BJP’s image and achieve a better working relationship with allies. It also remains to be gauged if he will have a free hand or Shah will continue as de facto president.

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.

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