Chandigarh: After former health minister JP Nadda's name went missing from PM Modi's list of 57 council of ministers, rumours of 'bigger plans' for the leader started making the rounds. Speculations were rife that the former BJP Yuva Morcha chief may get the top post in the Bharatiya Janata Party after its president Amit Shah joined the Modi government. However, defence minister Rajnath Singh on Monday announced that Nadda would be party's working chief for six months.
The low-profile leader from Himachal Pradesh was in the reckoning for the top post of the BJP after it came to power in 2014. But Shah, with a stellar performance in Uttar Pradesh under his belt, was instead chosen to be at the helm of affairs.
Nadda, who was brought to the national team by Nitin Gadkari in 2010, had to then settle for a position in the Union cabinet. However, he was seen as first amongst equals in the peer group.
He was made a member of the BJP parliamentary board — the highest decision-making body of the party and also a member of the central election committee that takes final decision for both Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
Nadda was also chosen by Shah to steer BJP in the 2019 general elections in UP where he worked in close coordination with former Gujarat BJP minister Gordhan Zadaphia, and secured more than 50% votes and 64 seats for the NDA.
The BJP leader started his political career with the ABVP in Patna where his father was serving as the vice-chancellor of the Patna University.
In 2010, Jagat Prakash Nadda quit Prem Kumar Dhumal's ministry following his appointment as BJP general secretary. In fact, Nadda had stepped down as a forest minister owing to his differences with CM Dhumal. Come 2012, and he was chosen unopposed as the Rajya Sabha member from Himachal Pradesh.
Seven years down the lane, the RSS man, known for his astute organisational skills, became the working president of the BJP. Back in 2014, Nadda was set to replace then president Rajnath Singh, whom the party wanted to bring into the government fold, in a bid to avoid two power centers. A reluctant Rajnath Singh gave in to the organisation’s demands, but it was Amit Shat who replaced him instead of Nadda.
Nadda remained unnerved, and was soon inducted in PM Modi's cabinet as the health minister, much to the chagrin of Dhumal and his son Anurag Thakur. In 2014, Thakur won his third consecutive Lok Sabha election and expected a cabinet berth in Modi's cabinet. However, Nadda dashed all the hopes of the father-son duo.
While the former health minister has maintained a low-profile, his political manoeuvres, especially in the hill state, have never gone unnoticed. Who can forget the 2017 rout, political assassination some say, of Prem Kumar Dhumal, who lost the Vidhan Sabha election from Sujanpur, a constituency he was forced to contest from by the party high command, despite being projected as the chief-ministerial candidate. It (anointment) was an unprecedented move by the BJP.
“The BJP troika would have been more polite if they had asked Dhumal to jump from the nearest hilltop,” writes journalist S Pal in one of his columns in website Punjab Today. The troika, Pal refers to, is that of Modi, Shah and Nadda.
The former minister started his political career as a student leader of the ABVP and has closely worked with Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Nitin Gadkari. His political grooming was done in Bihar, as he started off with the Jai Prakash Narayan movement.
Born in Patna to a Brahmin family from Himachal Pradesh — his father NL Nadda was a Vice-Chancellor of the Ranchi University — he is a convent-educated politician who has always kept his head down and followed order in the organisation ranks. His wife, Dr Mallika Nadda, is a professor at the Himachal Pradesh University.
He was elected as the Secretary of the Patna University in the 1977 student’s elections. Nadda then returned to his home state to pursue higher studies. He joined the law course in Himachal Pradesh University and simultaneously enrolled himself with ABVP, the student wing of the RSS. Under his leadership in 1984, the ABVP for the first time, defeated the Students Federation of India (SFI) in the HPU and he went on to become the student’s union president. He remained the national general secretary of the ABVP from 1986 to 1989.
Given his leadership qualities, he was appointed as the president of the BJP’s youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in 1991 at the age of 31.
In 1993 HP assembly polls, Nadda first entered the electoral politics and won from Bilaspur at the peak of anti-BJP wave in the state. Since prominent BJP leaders lost the elections that time, he was made the Leader of Opposition in the assembly.
Nadda again won from the Bilaspur seat in 1998 and was made the health minister in the Prem Kumar Dhumal government. He lost the seat in 2003 but bounced back in 2007 and was again inducted into Dhumal’s cabinet.
However, his equations with Dhumal forced him to quit the ministry and he came back to the organisation. Nitin Gadkari chose him as the general secretary of the BJP in 2010 and has worked at the Centre ever since.
In 2017, after the loss of CM-face Dhumal, Nadda had emerged as the front-runner to the top post in the state. However, then prevailing political equations of Himachal Pradesh demanded a Rajput face, the only factor which went against Nadda.
Known for his managerial skills, Nadda didn’t get knocked down. Instead, he ensured that his confidante Jairam Thakur makes it to the post. Nadda still continues to enjoy a strong hand in state politics like he does at the Centre. The victory in Uttar Pradesh, where he was the in-charge, is a testament to his strategy making skills.
Nadda is not a very ambitious man. “A laid-back pahari”, he is referred to in political circles. Moreover, the decision of his elevation gave a leverage to the party to include Anurag Thakur into the PM’s cabinet. This also ensured that Himachal Pradesh didn’t go unrepresented in the government, and the power equations in the state continue to be balanced.