Does Rajnath Singh have a magic potion for BJP?

Lucknow, Jan 23 (IANS) Does Rajnath Singh, a physics lecturer-turned-politician now in his second term as the BJP president, carry the magical potion for his party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls?

After the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister emerged as the consensus candidate for the top BJP post following the exit of Nitin Gadkari, party leaders here feel that the wily Thakur from Chandauli has a tough task cut out for him.

"There is no doubt that Rajnath-ji has kept his image intact in times of graft and corruption. But then, he also has to prove that he has a pan-India acceptance," a former ministerial colleague of Rajnath Singh told IANS.

Other colleagues also feel that Rajnath Singh needs to move ahead for a wider acceptability since he is, for now, "more of a regional leader".

Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpayi, however, differs and says Rajnath Singh's unanimous election as the BJP national president for a second time showed he was a national leader.

"Rajnath Singh-ji has a proven record. He is a leader who has a close contact with party workers and supporters," Bajpayi said.

Senior party leader Kalraj Mishra also praised Rajnath Singh and said the BJP would benefit immensely from his elevation.

Rajnath Singh became the Uttar Pradesh BJP chief in 1997 and later served as the state's chief minister from 2000-2002.

So, while his election has brought the state back on the BJP radar, his track record shows he has a lot to prove in his home state itself.

Under him, not only was the BJP routed in the assembly polls but it also fared badly in the Lok Sabha polls.

His open hostility to party colleague Kalyan Singh also sparked trouble for the BJP, which in its hey days, used to send more than 50 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

This time, however, Kalyan Sngh said Rajnath Singh was "actively and seriously involved in rehabilitation of the party in UP".

"He is a national leader with his feet firmly on the ground. I'm sure that under him, the BJP will get 50 (Lok Sabha) seats from UP," Kalyan Singh told IANS.

With just two wins in his four-decade-long political career that started with the Jan Sangh, Rajnath Singh, many within the party feel, has an uphill task of making himself "electorally viable".

He has won just two elections -- one a by-poll for the Haidergarh assembly seat in Barabanki when he was elected the chief minister and second when he won the Ghaziabad parliamentary seat in 2009.

This time, however, owing to large-scale dissent in his constituency, he is likely to contest from another seat.

Old timers, however, recall Rajnath Singh's rapport with the media and say that despite his exit from Lucknow a decade back, he has kept "his touch intact".

"He knows how to handle the media and gives a personal touch," said Rajiv Ranjan Jha, a senior journalist here.

"He is friends with leaders across party lines and we all here are sure that with his guidance, we will fulfill his dreams of winning 50 (Lok Sabha) seats in Uttar Pradesh" Vijay Bahadur Pathak, state spokesman of the BJP, said.

Though introduction of his elder son Pankaj Singh as a BJP office-bearer met with stiff resistance, leaders feel that given the fact that Rajnath Singh's new innings will go on till 2015 and include the crucial Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi assembly polls and the Lok Sabha polls, he might be off to a bigger role, including emerging as a consensus leader in the National Democratic Alliance for the prime minister's post.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

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