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Posted on Jan 23, 12:43PM | IBNS
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Rajnath Singh was elected the president of the party unopposed on Wednesday, ending weeks of speculation over the outgoing chief Nitin Gadkari who chose not to seek an re-election after facing revolt in the party itself over business malpractice charges against him.
Rajnath Singh, who was the party president in the past, met party veteran LK Advani in the morning, before heading to the BJP headquarters, where he attended a party parliamentary board meeting which endorsed his name as the next chief of the organisation.
He filed his nomination papers Wednesday and was elected uncontested to take over from Nitin Gadkari. He assumed the position for the period 2013 to 2015, thus beginning his second term as the BJP chief.
After Singh's election, Nitin Gadkari said he kept party before himself and so stepped aside and would work keeping country first and taking briefs from the new party chief.
"I will come clean first and I do not want the party to suffer from the conspiracy to malign it," said Gadkari.
Soon after his election, Rajnath Singh was greeted by other top leaders like L K Advani who congratulated him and praised his abilities which were proven in the past.
"He will take the party forward," said Advani, adding that BJP would remain a "party with a difference" under Rajnath Singh.
Advani also thanked Gadkari for stepping aside and thus "disappointing the media which wanted to write something negative in true journalistic tradition."
Hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Rajnath Singh had began his career as a physics lecturer, but his association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh brought him to BJP.
He was also for a period the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and worked as a Cabinet Minister in the National Democratic Alliance regime.
BJP leader Ananth Kumar earlier said at the parliamentary board meeting Gadkari's dynamism, good work and open mindedness in increasing the party's support base were acknowledged by party patriarch L K Advani.
Singh's name came up for the post with Gadkari resigning late last night amid increasing grumblings against his second term, and after the BJP battled hints of rifts within, announcing the way for former chief Rajnath Singh to rise to the top seat again.
Subject of an anti-graft investigation that has buoyed back into national headlines over the past few days, Gadkari said that he was stepping aside since there was no consensus on his name for the top post.
Even though BJP patriarch L K Advani was said to have been against Rajnath Singh being chosen for the top post, the 62-year-old emerged as the most widely supported leader late on Tuesday.
Top leaders right-wing Hindu nationalist party, including Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, held closed-door meetings with leaders from its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that reportedly backed Gadkari.
Earlier on Tuesday high drama was witnessed when names such as those of senior leader Yashwant Sinha and Sushma Swaraj was tossed in the air as the party scrambled to arrive at its traditional single-candidate consensus for the President election.
BJP leader Mahesh Jethmalani, who had earlier threatened to challenge Gadkari for the post of the party chief, on Tuesday said he has been denied nomination by the party to contest against the party president.
However it was much due to the clout of the Delhi-leadership of the BJP that Rajnath Singh made it as the frontrunner for the post.
However, announcing his decision to not stand for a reelection after months of speculation that he would get a second term, Gadkari reportedly said that he did not want the ongoing anti-graft probe to hamper the party's image.
"I do not wish that this should in any way adversely affect the interest of the BJP," Gadkari, whose is under the scanner for the dubious funding of conglomerate Purti Group, said.
"I have, therefore, decided not to seek a second term as the president of the BJP," the 55-year-old leader, who took over the party's reins in December 2009, said in a statement.
"I have committed no wrong or any impropriety either directly or indirectly. I shall continue to serve my party as a committed worker. I have conveyed my decision to my colleagues," he added.
On Tuesday income tax officials visited eight locations in Mumbai linked to 24 different firms that invested in or did business with the Purti Group even as Gadkari maintained that the allegations of wrongdoing against him were fabricated.
Legal luminary and leader Ram Jethmalani, his son Mahesh Jethmalani and a host of other leaders had openly slammed his possibility of re-election and had demanded that Gadkari must step down as the president of the outfit till a probe into the corruption charges against him cleared him.