Former Union minister Jagat Prakash Nadda, who was appointed BJP president earlier this week, is expected to be functionally efficient. He comes of old RSS stock and has considerable organisational experience. Last year he ran his party’s Lok Sabha poll campaign in UP where the BJP did exceedingly well.
That marked him out to be the man (in the BJP-RSS it can only be a man, though there is no specific rule to this effect) to succeed Amit Shah as president. But Mr Shah continued as chief even after he was made home minister. Apparently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS thought that best. Mr Nadda was made his understudy in the capacity of working president.
Now Mr Nadda has got his own wings. But he is expected to be smart enough to know that it might be best if he conducted himself as if he were still the understudy to a man who practically runs the show for Mr Modi, day-to-day.
He will do well to recall a lesson from the past. Long ago, as BJP president, Venkaiah Naidu got voluble. He publicly described then PM Atal Behari Vajayee as “vikas purush” (development man) and his personal favourite L.K. Advani, then the home minister, “lauh purush” (iron man). The PM did not take kindly to this and had his wings clipped without loss of time.
In India, the experience has been for the president of a national party to be all-powerful when the party is not in power, but when a party is in government it is the PM who is numero uno on the party side too, not just the government. By declaring that he would try to expand the BJP into states where it has a negligible presence, Mr Nadda has done the safest thing he could. This is a remark without any flavour. In reality, he must ready himself to take instructions from on high.