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India's Modi tightens grip in ruling party shake-up

The transition in India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now complete - a move analysts say also consolidates Prime Minister Naredra Modi's grip on power.

NEW DELHI: The transition in India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now complete, signalling the end of an era for the party. Analysts say the move also consolidates Prime Minister Naredra Modi's grip on power.

Three patriarchs, all previously BJP chiefs, have been dropped from the Parliamentary Board, the Party's highest decision-making body.

Octogenarian veterans of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party - former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former deputy prime minister LK Advani, and senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi have new roles as mentors.They have been replaced by a younger team of up-and-coming party members, most of whom are under 50 years old.

BJP supporters say the changes are aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's strategy to inject new talent into its ranks and by doing so, create a government that represents the country's population, of which more than 65 per cent are below 35 years old.

Called "Margdarshak Mandal" or mentor group, the new five-member committee also includes Mr Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh - a decision that observers say is an attempt to enhance the group's credibility.

The change in the BJP cadre has been inevitable since Amit Shah, a close aide of Prime Minister Modi, became party president in July. Well known as Mr Modi's Man Friday, Mr Shah's been credited for the BJP's victory during the General Elections in the politically significant province of Uttar Pradesh in northern India.

FACE-SAVING MECHANISM?

But analysts say the mentor group is more of a face-saving mechanism, since the mentor roles are advisory with zero decision-making powers.

"Advani and Joshi are very senior leaders but they will not exert any kind of actual role to play,” said Shahid Siddiqui, a political analyst. “If they had, then they should have been there in the Parliamentary Board. But they have not been kept in the Parliamentary Board. That means it was intended to keep them out of decision-making."

The opposition Congress party says the changes mark an eventual concentration of power in a few hands, particularly those of Mr Modi and his 'yes man' Mr Shah.

"This is only the first step in the centralisation of power,” said Manish Tewari, a Congress Party spokesperson. “Soon you would see, in the years to come, that there would be only two people, who would remain in every committee of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Everybody else would be made to sit at home."

The rejig of BJP's highest decision-making body reflects the changes in the style of governing within the Party, now under the direct control of two men - Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. But how long before the consolidation of power breeds resentment within the Party, is something that will be closely watched. 

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