July 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Venkaiah takes over as BJP chief
New Delhi, July 1
He took over the mantle of the party at a meeting of office-bearers convened by outgoing BJP President Krishnamurthi ahead of a reshuffle of the Cabinet.
Newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister and number two leader in the party L.K. Advani and Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and other top leaders of the BJP were present on the occasion. However, Mr Vajpayee arrived at the fag end of the one-hour meeting.
The presidentship of the party comes as a birthday gift for Mr Naidu, who turned 53 years old today. Mr Naidu, who resigned last night from the Cabinet as Rural Development Minister to take up the new assignment, will be the seventh President of the party.
Mr Naidu is the third BJP President to take over the reins of the party in the past three years. The party has had Mr Bangaru Laxman, who had to resign due to his name figuring in the Tehelka expose, and Mr Krishnamurthi as chiefs.
Earlier, Mr Vajpayee, who could reach the BJP headquarters only after Mr Naidu formally took over as the President, said the reshuffle of the Cabinet and revamping of the party was aimed at strengthening both the government and the organisation.
Flanked by Mr Advani and Dr Joshi, the Prime Minister praised both incoming and outgoing Presidents. Praising Mr Naidu for taking the challenge of steering the party organisation and discharging his duties as minister of an important department, Mr Vajpayee thanked Mr Krishnamurthi for accepting his request to join the Cabinet.
“When several ministers are moving out to the organisation, there is need to strengthen the government also,” Mr Vajpayee said, referring to Mr
Congratulating Mr Advani on his being elevated as Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Vajpayee made it clear that he (Advani) would have to share more responsibilities. “We were working together and from now on, he has to take on more responsibilities,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Advani, who is being seen as the major spirit behind the revamping of the organisation, said there was a thinking in the government and the party to revamp andreshuffle as the NDA and the BJP had to be geared up to take on the future challenges.
Referring to the initial reluctance on the part of Mr Krishnamurthi to give up the post, Mr Advani said ultimately the outgoing President had accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation.
Accepting the responsibility, an emotional Naidu said: “I am a humble worker and accept the post with great humility and I seek the cooperation of all those in the party and the government to strengthen the organisation.”
Announcing that former Law Minister Arun Jaitley would be party’s acting spokesperson, Mr Naidu said further reorganisation in the party would be made after consultation with senior party leaders.
Later speaking to newspersons, Mr Naidu said there had to be close cooperation between the party and the government. “There will be live contact between the government and the party. The party will be informed about what is happening in the government and the party will give its viewpoints and suggestions on various issues”, he said.
He also announced that Mr Advani, on his request, had agreed to visit the party office once a week to interact with other leaders.
Stating that he would first visit his native place and constituency in Vellore district in Andhra Pradesh and pay his obeisance at Tirupati and then start work “formally” from July 6, the birth anniversary of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.
Known for his organisational skills and quick repartee, Mr Naidu shot into limelight and scaled the pinnacle of the BJP hierarchy due to the aggressive pursuit of the party agenda from his student day politics in Andhra Pradesh.
The media-savvy BJP leader, who is close to both Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani, is also known for his oratory skills that swings from rabid criticism to subtle sarcasm.
Mr Naidu, the second leader from Andhra Pradesh to don the party chief’s post after tainted Bangaru Laxman, hogged the national limelight when he was made official spokesman at the party’s headquarters.
There was a festive look at the BJP headquarters here as hundreds of party workers from all over the country, especially from Mr Naidu’s home state, had poured in since early morning. At Mr Naidu’s residence too a large number of his well-wishers, party workers and colleagues gathered to congratulate him.
On the other hand, Mr Krishnamurthi’s residence looked deserted and only leaders belonging to various parties, including Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, called up to congratulate him.
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