New Delhi: Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Rajnath Singh was elected as the Bharatiya Janata Party President on Wednesday as Nitin Gadkari opted out of the race following corruption allegations against him. Rajnath Singh began his term for 2013-2015 by touching senior BJP leader LK Advani's feet and sounding the poll bugle for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
In a scathing attack on Congress soon after taking over, Rajnath Singh said the Congress had failed on all fronts and expressed confidence that the BJP will win in the 2014 general elections. Criticising Congress for price rise, Rajnath Singh said, "Congress has governed the country for the maximum duration in free India. It is responsible for the tough time our country is going through. The BJP-led NDA government has also governed the country for six years under Vajpayee ji. And at that time the economy was flourishing."
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Accusing the Congress of being interested only in vote bank politics, Rajnath Singh said, "Congress is doing politics only to form government. Politics should be done to build the country. It is only BJP that can work for the upliftment of the weaker sections, the poor and the Dalits of our society."
Rajnath Singh also hit out at Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for his remarks on BJP and RSS involvement in Malegaon blasts and terror activities. He said that BJP will hold a nationwide protest against Shinde's remark on January 24.
He also defended Nitin Gadkari saying the allegations against him were false. "I'm hurt by the false allegations on Nitin Gadkari ji. I am accepting this post as a responsibility and not a job. The whole BJP is with Nitin Gadkari," Rajnath Singh said.
Meanwhile, Nitin Gadkari said he opted out of the race as he wanted to prove the corruption allegations against him wrong. He said, "False allegations were made against me with issues that I had nothing to do with. Till I come clean, I won't contest for the party President's post.
Welcoming Rajnath Singh as the BJP President, senior BJP leader LK Advani said he now holds the responsibility to lead BJP to victory in the 2014 Lok sabha elections. "The responsibility of victory in assembly and general elections in the next two years lies on Rajnath Singh. Rajnath Singh has to revive the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, where the party's position is painful."
Those present on stage with Rajnath Singh during the announcement were Murli Manohar Joshi, LK Advani, Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, Thawar Chand Gehlot (BJP returning officer) and Ananth Kumar.
Rajnath Singh, who was the education minister in Kalyan Singh's first government, in the last two decades has risen up the ranks from unsparing politics on UP's hinterland.
As the UP state BJP president in 1990s, he was crucial in mustering numbers for the Kalyan Singh government. Soon he was challenging the BJP's Ram Mandir mascot to become the chief minister of the state.
Rajnath also worked as a cabinet minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, but the big leap came after the 2004 elections and RSS's disenchantment with Advani. With Pramod Mahajan by his side, he was made the president in 2006.
But during his tenure, infighting grew within the BJP and in 2009, with most Delhi leaders opposing him, he was replaced by Gadkari.