He stuck with most of the top party functionaries left behind by his predecessor Rajnath Singh. Now that he is in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet—in probably the most vital and visible post given Modi’s predilection for foreign affairs—Shah might, ironically, be effecting the changes to the party’s organisation that many thought he would as president.
The first step was the appointment last week of 53-year-old party stalwart B.L. Santhosh as the new national general secretary (organisation), replacing Ramlal, 66, who returns to the RSS after 13 years in the post. He had served the party well under various presidents, including Shah, but, say party insiders, he was considered too soft by both Shah and the prime minister, too willing to tolerate ideological and disciplinary infractions by party leaders.
Santhosh, on the other hand, is said to be unafraid of reputation and a firm believer in party over personality. He was joint general secretary (organisation) for the BJP’s Karnataka unit and tasked by Shah to direct the party’s organisation in the South. While the BJP made little impression on most southern states in the 2019 general election, it did sweep Karnataka, winning 25 of the 27 seats it contested (the NDA won 26 of 28). Santhosh’s work in Karnataka, alongside Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, impressed the BJP hierarchy. He earned, say party workers, a reputation for acting with authority and integrity.