Rise of Khattar & Fadnavis will settle BJP's next-generation leadership question

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Devendra Fadnavis, a Brahmin, finally emerged as the first BJP chief minister of Maharashtra. It is significant for in this western state, the Marathas and Brahmins don't share the best of relation and history shows evidence of the Marathas trying to destabilise governments in the state led by Brahmin chief ministers.

Similarly in Haryana, Mahohar Lal Khattar became the second non-Jat chief minister after Bhajan Lal after the BJP bagged majority in the recently held assembly elections. This is also an important development, keeping in mind the dominance of the Jats in the politics of that state.

But more than the caste question, the rise of Fadnavis and Khattar to prominence in these two important states has brought to the fore the issue of succession in the saffron party, a worrying thought for many in the lot even a year ago.

Succession in BJP was a serious question during the times of Vajpayee & Advani

The BJP once had a little known third face after the two giants called Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani and there was no effort to bridge the gap between the top and the next leadership to settle the succession issue. The departure of Vajpayee from active politics after the loss in the 2004 parliamentary election, the slide of Advani in 2005 after the RSS opposed his effort to grow a moderate face and the death of a key leader like Pramod Mahajan in 2006 had seriously upset the BJP's prospects once.

Loss in 2009 LS poll was a low for the party's leadership

The loss in the 2009 parliamentary polls virtually marked the end of the BJP's first-generation leadership but also showed that the next set of leaders was not upto the mark in taking it on from their predecessors. The role of the party president was under stress and it was till the middle of 2012 when Narendra Modi began to make strong advances that the BJP failed to find a clear direction to act.

The party's ideology was outdated and with the moderate leadership of Vajpayee and organisational strength fading fast, the BJP needed fresh oxygen at that moment.

The BJP did a good job in backing Narendra Modi as the head of the new leadership and not encouraging  factional fights

Modi's entry into the scene saved the day for the BJP. No matter how much Advani and his aides tried to disrupt the former Gujarat prime minister's progress to emerge as the future leader of the party in which succession had always been a tough question to answer, there is no doubt that it was Modi who the party could have relied on the most to take it out of the trouble.

Modi's appointment as the PM candidate last year settled the succession question in BJP

In September 2013, with Modi's official appointment as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, the problem was succession was finally settled in the saffron party. The BJP was ready to strike again and it did so successfully nine months later by forming its government at the Centre.

But the party lacked a back-up support, something similar to the Vajpayee-Advani era

But the question of succession still loomed in the party's lower rungs. Can the BJP afford to only rely on Modi's persona as it has been doing over the last six months, throughout? This is a question that used to rattle the Congress in the end years of Jawaharlal Nehru. But unlike the Congress which found solace in Nehru's daughter in 1966, the BJP fought every odd to appoint new leaders in states where it emerged victorious by riding the Modi wave.

The choice of Khattar and Fadnavis despite the local challenges was a brave move

The saffron party had to find local leaders to take the good job done by Modi and party president Amit Shah forward and it was not easy to find them in states where it came to power for the first time. But still it managed to spot incumbents and that too those who could meet more thorn than roses in the daily administration because of ground realities (Khattar versus Jats in Haryana or Fadnavis versus Marathas in Maharashtra).

Khattar and Fadnavis join reputed CMs like Shivraj Chouhan, Raman Singh and Manohar Parrikar

A new group of chief ministers mean the BJP will have a robust third-rung leadership for the future and the issue of succession will not haunt it again after a point of time. With Fadnavis and Khattar joining the club of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh and Manohar Parrikar, each of whom are known for their chief ministerial abilities, the BJP's base will only get wider in future, burying any doubt about future leadership succeeding Modi and Shah.

Khattar & Fadnavis will make the BJP's back-up support for top leadership strong

A confident BJP is all set to go to the next set of assembly elections with a hope of forming its own government. The model of 'Modi at the top, new leaders making the base' is working quite well for the party at the moment. The Gujarati duo will hope that the run continues.

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