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Nadda, an affable but firm leader

Former environment, health and law minister from Himachal Pradesh, which has just four of the Lok Sabha's 543 seats, Nadda has tried to carve out his own space in national politics with his low profile and astute organisational skills, believe his party leaders.

Last Updated: Jan 21, 2020, 08.20 AM IST
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Worker becoming president is speciality of BJP: JP Nadda
Worker becoming president is speciality of BJP: JP Nadda
NEW DELHI: Jagat Prakash Nadda, an affable, soft-spoken and ever-smiling leader, has the reputation of being assertive and firm but in a diplomatic way.

Like his predecessor Amit Shah, Nadda, 59, cut his teeth in the rough and tumble of student politics as an ABVP member. He was head of BJP’s youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) for two terms — 1991-93 and 1993-95. Nadda became an MLA in 1993 from Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh at 33. He was elected to the assembly again in 1998 and became health minister in the Prem Kumar Dhumal government.

Nadda held the environment and forests, science and technology portfolios in the Himachal government from 2003 to 2008. However, his rise led to some differences with Dhumal and he moved out to Delhi as a national general secretary in 2010, when Nitin Gadkari became the BJP chief.

Nadda was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2012 from Himachal and is into his second term in the House. During the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign, he was PM Modi’s point man at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. Nadda has known PM Modi since his BJYM days when the latter was a BJP officebearer incharge of Himachal. As the PM recalled on Monday, the two would go around on Nadda’s scooter doing party work. Nadda enjoys Modi’s trust, quite similar to Amit Shah’s proximity to the PM.

In 2014, when there were some objections to having both the PM and the BJP chief from Gujarat, Nadda was seen as a front-runner for the top BJP post. However, Modi prevailed and put Shah in the saddle. Nadda was made the Union health minister in November 2014, within weeks of Shah becoming the party chief.

Nadda was also given the crucial responsibility of UP during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, a job Shah did successfully in 2014. It did not come as a surprise when Modi chose Nadda as BJP working president in June 2019 to replace Shah after he became the home minister.

Nadda grew up in Bihar, where his father was Patna University vice chancellor. He can hold forth in Bhojpuri and his familiarity with the state would be a big asset for the party in the assembly polls due in November. He did his schooling and graduation in Patna before getting a law degree from Himachal University, Shimla.

Nadda’s first challenge is the Delhi elections where Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party is a formidable opponent. Keeping allies like JDU in good humour — BJP has given two seats to Nitish Kumar’s party in Delhi — ahead of Bihar polls will also be a challenge. SAD and other NDA constituents have recently expressed unhappiness on several issues.

The protests over CAA-NPR-NRC, which may impact the Bengal and Assam polls in 2021, are another major challenge for the new BJP chief.

Nadda’s wife Mallika was also an ABVP member. She is the daughter of Jayshree Banerjee, who has served as BJP MP from Jabalpur in MP. They have two sons. Being a cleanliness freak, Nadda has a fetish for keeping his desk in order. During his general secretary days, his hospitality had a personal touch. He kept an electric kettle and would make tea for some of his guests.

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