Much before External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj revealed her decision not to contest Lok Sabha election anymore, the Bharatiya Janata Party is learnt to have zeroed in on her successor—party vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe. He has been asked by the party bosses to work closely with Swaraj. The BJP is working on building the next generation of leaders who could play prominent roles in the event of the party retaining power at the Centre after the 2019 general polls. Having been appointed the president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Rajya Sabha MP Sahasrabuddhe has been entrusted the task by the BJP bosses to work in close coordination with Swaraj to project India's image from the strength of its cultural heritage. His task is also to build bridges with the countries with which India had traditional ties to help tap the trade and economic potential. “BJP chief Amit Shah had cleared Sahasrabuddhe for induction in the Council of Ministers. He was about to be made a Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs. But the power play within the ruling dispensation, which sought to push a powerful BJP general secretary in the Council, eventually nixed the elevation of Sahasrabuddhe,” revealed a senior BJP functionary.
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) was reportedly not pleased with the power play which worked against Sahasrabuddhe’s interests. “With the RSS expressing its displeasure to the BJP chief, the best possible way was to ensure a Cabinet rank to Sahasrabuddhe, which happened with his appointment as the president of the ICCR in 2016 just after a few months of the expansion of the Council of Ministers,” a source close to Nagpur, the RSS headquarters, said. Exit Sushma, enter Sahasrabuddhe? JANUARY 2019 35 Power Corridors On the election trail in Madhya Pradesh, Swaraj recently told mediapersons in Indore that she wouldn’t be contesting Lok Sabha elections in 2019 on health grounds. With the resignation of M.J. Akbar as MoS, Swaraj is currently just has one deputy in Gen V.K. Singh (Retd). There are enough cues from the office of Sahasrabuddhe’s that he is neither taking the ICCR stint as an embellishment nor using it as a parking place. On his direction, the Niti Aayog has constituted a working group under its Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar to draft a roadmap for interministerial strategic convergence; the idea is to ensure centrality of cultural ties in trade relations. The panel is meeting regularly.
Additionally, Sahasrabuddhe took the initiative to sponsor a group of four women to take the road route to retrace the ancient Silk Route to connect with women in the Central Asian and European countries. Sources said that Indian embassies in 22 countries are working overtime to ensure that these women—Madhvi Singh Tomar, Shital Deshpande, Madhuri Sahasrabuddhe, and Urmila Joshi—to connect with organizations in 22 countries to forge long-term ties. Next year, the ICCR would sponsor these women, who would be joined by their counterparts from 22 countries, on a road journey to connect with East Asian countries. The objective is to revive India’s old traditional ties and help increase people-to-people contact. Sahasrabuddhe is known as RSS’ eyes and ears in the national Capital. Earlier, he was the political advisor to Nitin Gadkari when the latter was BJP president. Sahasrabuddhe’s graph has seen a steady rise. He was also appointed in-charge for Madhya Pradesh.