Rajnath Singh takes BJP's reins in race to 2014 polls

NEW DELHI Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:53pm IST

1 of 4. Newly elected President of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajnath Singh (C) receives a turban from his supporters after his appointment at the party headquarters in New Delhi January 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mansi Thapliyal

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) anointed veteran leader Rajnath Singh as party chief on Wednesday in a bid to rejuvenate the main opposition ahead of crucial state elections this year and national elections due in 2014.

Singh, 61, was elected unopposed for a two-year term till 2015 after scandal-tainted incumbent Nitin Gadkari resigned and opted out of the race.

Sharing a stage with BJP leaders, Singh called on party workers in a televised speech to work hard to secure victories for the party in the upcoming elections.

"If you work with strong willpower and determination, then as Advaniji (party leader L K Advani) has hoped, in all the state elections of 2013, the BJP will form the government ... in 2014 national elections also the BJP-led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) will form the government," he said.

Singh, a Lok Sabha lawmaker from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, was also the party's president for two terms between 2006 and 2009.

He was seen as a consensus candidate after media reports said some BJP leaders had raised objections over Gadkari, who is facing allegations of corruption.

Both Gadkari and Singh are regional leaders who were promoted by the BJP's ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

"It's one provincial leader replacing another. It's because the RSS doesn't like city slickers," said political analyst Amulya Ganguli.

The BJP rose to prominence in the early 1990s on the back of a Hindu revivalist movement and ruled from 1998 to 2004, promoting economic reforms and gaining a reputation as pro-business. It lost to the Congress in two straight elections in 2004 and 2009.

On Wednesday, Singh attacked the Congress party over its failure to tame rising prices, a string of corruption scandals and a weaker economy.

"If our country is going through a crisis, then the Congress is the only party responsible for it, because in independent India, for a long time there has been Congress rule," Singh said.

(Additional reporting by Vipin Das M; Editing by Tony Tharakan)

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