Who is coming to the leadership of BJP after Modi?

Last Updated on May 26, 2024 6:30 am

In Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, the state headquarters of the BJP is just opposite the Rajsik Vidhan Sabha building of that state. The entrance to the assembly is just after crossing the main road from the BJP office, although the present Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath rarely visits the party office.

During the polls, the BJP office is busy as usual, as well as entertaining the media workers. Lucknow’s ‘Tehjib’ or culture of hospitality is very much appreciated, the hospitality at the party office is also worth seeing!

A temporary media center has been set up inside the office premises for the representatives of the media by placing a huge air-conditioned tent, where at least 150 journalists can work together. The supply of tea-coffee-lacchi is also endless.

In the meantime, small and medium-sized leaders are smiling and chatting with journalists from outside. Answering their various questions tirelessly, trying to explain the complex figures of state politics as they do.

This ‘off-the-record’ and open discussion also has a context, which BJP leaders are clearly uncomfortable with. The guest asked the journalist to fold his hands, and don’t keep all the words!

This topic is nothing else – who is after Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Simply put, what is his ‘succession plan’ in the team?

It is true that the BJP leadership in Lucknow or even in Delhi feels embarrassed to talk about this issue, but in this election season, Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has brought the issue to the fore.

In his first press conference a few days ago after being released from jail, Kejriwal reminded us that next year, Narendra Modi will turn 75 – his own unwritten political retirement age.

Kejriwal therefore raised the question, on September 17 next year, Modiji will also have to retire (according to his own rules). So who is after him?

The Chief Minister of Delhi also indicated that if Modi retires next year, Amit Shah, the unwritten number two in the cabinet, will take over. He also commented that Yogi Adityanath will be removed from the responsibility of Uttar Pradesh within two months if Modi becomes the Prime Minister for the third time.

There is no doubt that his intention was to fuel the ‘Modi succession debate’ within the BJP. That it has been quite successful is evident from top party leaders like Amit Shah or Rajnath Singh being forced to answer it.

Both of them have publicly stated that Narendra Modi will definitely complete his term as prime minister – there is no question of him retiring midway.

But during this break, the political exercise on the issue has also started in full swing – inside the BJP as well as outside.

The question of whether Narendra Modi retires or not when he turns seventy-five, who will take over as the top leader in the party has come up for discussion.

The international magazine ‘The Economist’ wrote bluntly in an article last week that a leadership fight is brewing within India’s ruling party.

But which names are the most speculated at the moment?

What are the pros and cons of each of Narendra Modi’s potential successors?

One thing, however, Lucknow strongly believes, whoever takes the top leadership of the BJP after Narendra Modi – must have an ‘Uttar Pradesh connection’.

And it is not only the claim of the rights of that state, but also the political reality!

Whatever happens in the end, the BBC has put together a list of who is leading the race for the leadership at the moment.

Who is coming to the leadership of BJP after Modi?

Yogi Adityanath (age 51)

When the party chose Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister after the BJP won the Uttar Pradesh Assembly with an absolute majority in 2017, no one could have imagined that he would be the one to run the government in the state. In fact, Adityanath did not contest that election himself.

Over the next seven years, the controversial saffron monk leader and mahant (head) of the Hindu Gorakhnath Math not only established himself as the number one face of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, but also led the BJP to a second consecutive majority in the 2022 elections – a rarity in state politics.

‘Delhi Mein Modi, Lucknow Mein Yogi’ has also become a very popular slogan of the BJP – Uttar Pradesh is also held up as a model of the BJP’s so-called ‘double engine’ (i.e. government by the same party at the Center and in the state).

It is being said that this ‘extraordinary duo’ of Modi-Yogi is the best recipe for BJP’s success. In this election too, all the banners-festoon-posters in the state are showing Yogi’s picture right after Modi’s, though in a smaller size.

For the past two or three years, Yogi’s supporters have even started saying, “After Modiji, Yogi must be the most qualified person to lead the party!”

In fact, there is no doubt that Chief Minister Adityanath has been able to increase his acceptability to the BJP’s ‘core vote bank’ by taking a radical Hindutva and at the same time fiercely anti-Muslim approach to administration.

Yogi’s bulldozers demolished the houses and shops of those protesting against the Citizenship Act, as promised, he closed almost all the butcherhouses in the state.

It was during his tenure that mafia dons like Atiq Ahmed or Mukhtar Ansari died mysteriously in custody. And almost all of these measures have been taken selectively against Muslims.

However, even as Modi’s successor, he has made a name for himself, which is not accepted by many in the BJP.

Amit Shah (age 59)

On May 16, Britain’s ‘The Guardian’ published an article titled “He loves to scare people: How Modi’s right-hand man, Amit Shah, runs India!”

The article says that for the last forty years, Amit Shah has been Narendra Modi’s most trusted aide, advisor and, in a word, all-rounder! And at this moment he is also the second most powerful person in India.

Amit Shah became the BJP president after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014. In his second term, Modi brought him in as the country’s home minister and an unheralded number two figure in the cabinet.

Amit Shah has also been described by many as Narendra Modi’s ‘alter ego’.

Rajnath Singh (72)

But Yogesh Mishra, the editor of Newstrack and a BJP political hack, is also eyeing a third name as a possible successor to Modi – that of Rajnath Singh.

Rajnath is currently the country’s defense minister, the home minister of India in Modi’s first term. He was also a member of the cabinet in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government – an experience that none of the top leaders in today’s BJP has.

Rajnath Singh is a long time MP from Lucknow constituency, also former president of BJP.

However, no one in the BJP office in Lucknow has the slightest doubt that Uttar Pradesh will play a major role in the finalization of the name of whoever will take the helm of the BJP after Narendra Modi. Senior journalists of the city also all agree on this one question.

In fact, Uttar Pradesh has more Lok Sabha seats than any other state in India – 80. It has also been repeatedly seen in the past that it is practically impossible to come to power in the country if one does not win in this state.

The number of Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh is bound to increase if the BJP comes back to power with its promise of population-based ‘delimitation’.

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