Pressing demands

Published : May 09, 1998 00:00 IST

MORE than anything else, the Bharatiya Janata Party's National Council appeared to be concerned about the party's ability to cope with the rising level of aspirations of party workers. Party leaders in the Government have realised that it is difficult to meet the demands for patronage and a share of the benefits of office, as the party, heading a coalition of disparate forces, is subject to constraints.

The Government has received several requests from party workers for transfers and postings, a close aide of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee said. The Congress(I) was able to fulfil such aspirations when it was in power by meeting such requests. As the BJP seeks to discourage such requests, it is aware that this is bound to alienate party workers, according to a former party general secretary. He felt that the BJP was not as cadre-based a party as the Left parties and it would be difficult to keep the morale of party workers high while in power. This was the experience in Maharashtra and Rajasthan, he said.

The BJP's main concern is to assuage the feelings of party workers. The issue was sought to be addressed at the meeting by constituting a party-government coordination committee con- sisting of four members - the Prime Minister's political adviser, Pra-mod Mahajan, the party's former general secretary, M. Venkaiah Naidu, party vice-president Jana Krishna-murthy and Parlia- mentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana. To please party workers, it was suggested that Union Ministers become more accessible to them and that BJP Ministers visit the party office once a week to hear their grievances.

On the organisational front, Kushabhau Thakre is not expected to make any drastic changes. L.K. Advani had placed his trusted colleagues in various positions in the 150-member National Executive during his tenure as president. Indications are that Thakre will fill the vacancies created by those who joined the government and retain most of the rest; as per the party constitution, 25 per cent of the previous National Executive has to be replaced when a new president takes over. While the National Executive can include those who are in the Government, office-bearers have to be from outside the Government. As a consequence, Thakre is likely to appoint new general secretaries in the place of Pramod Mahajan and Sushma Swaraj and new vice-presidents in the place of Khurana and Sunder Singh Bhandari. Bhandari has become the Governor of Bihar.

The National Council meeting was held under the auspices of the BJP's Gujarat unit, which captured power in the Assembly elections held in February. The session presented a picture of unity. The battle for power among the party leaders of Gujarat, which had marked the plenary session in Mumbai in 1995, was no longer in evidence.

However, another round of power struggle is not ruled out as there are question marks about the health of Chief Minister Keshu-bhai Patel, though Keshubai Patel's followers claim that the leader enjoys good health. Ministers Suresh Mehta and Ashok Bhatt have already pressed their claims to succeed him.

The Kerala unit of the party made its presence felt at the session by releasing a report on the activities of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelli-gence in the State. Some delegates from the State demanded that a Central team be sent to Kerala to study the ISI infiltration. But a resolution adopted at the session did not concede the demand; it just called for urgent measures to combat terrorism, separatism and the ISI's activities. While no mention of Kerala was made, the resolution voiced concern about the killings in Jammu and Kashmir and the consequent migration from the State.

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