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Last Updated: Monday, 2 January 2006, 11:24 GMT
India's BJP names new president
Rajnath Singh is greeted by party workers in Delhi
Rajnath Singh is a former Uttar Pradesh chief minister
India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has named Rajnath Singh as its new president, marking a shift to a younger leadership.

Mr Singh, 54, succeeds LK Advani, one of the party's founders who quit on Saturday after a row with hardliners.

Mr Singh, a low profile leader from the key state of Uttar Pradesh, said his main aims would be to expand the party's support and clean up its image.

The BJP has been dogged by recent scandals as it tries to win back power.

Corruption, misconduct and indiscipline are factors on which the BJP will not compromise
BJP president Rajnath Singh

Half a dozen of the right-wing Hindu nationalist party's MPs were recently suspended from parliament for allegedly accepting cash for questions.

And last week general secretary Sanjay Joshi resigned after becoming embroiled in a sex scandal.

'Consolidate'

Rajnath Singh is a former chief minister of India's most populous and politically crucial northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

LK Advani (left) with Shaukat Aziz in the prime minister's house, Islamabad
Mr Advani's visit to Pakistan sparked controversy back home

"Corruption, misconduct and indiscipline are factors on which the BJP will not compromise on any grounds," he told party workers at BJP headquarters in Delhi.

Mr Singh later told a news conference that he wanted to "consolidate the party and make it strong".

"I will also aim to expose the anti-people policies of the present [Congress party-led] government."

Mr Singh is the BJP's third president in 15 months. Mr Advani, 77, lasted little more than a year in the job after Venkaiah Naidu stepped down in October 2004 for personal reasons.

Mr Advani, who remains opposition leader in parliament, fell out with hardliners in June when he described Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah as secular.

He admitted on Saturday that the party had been through a "bad patch", but predicted Mr Singh would take it to "new heights".

End of an era

A former federal agriculture minister, Rajnath Singh shot into the limelight in the early 1990s as the Uttar Pradesh education minister when he came down hard on cheating in examinations.

He is a powerful rural politician known for his organisational skills and clean image, as well as being popular with the party rank and file.

But he does not have a national profile, and some analysts believe he will find it difficult to run a party with a young generation of leaders competing for primacy.

The current changing of the guard is seen as marking the end of an era for the BJP, which suffered a shock general election defeat at the hands of Congress in 2004.

As well as coping with the departure of Mr Advani it must also face up to a future without the active participation of another party founder, Atal Behari Vajpayee, who said last week he was quitting politics.

The two men were instrumental in the party's rise to power. Mr Vajpayee, 81, was regarded as its more moderate face.

Observers say the party now faces a difficult choice between maintaining its Hindu nationalist ideology and striving to become modern and progressive.




SEE ALSO:
Advani quits as BJP president
31 Dec 05 |  South Asia
Vajpayee retirement stuns party
30 Dec 05 |  South Asia
What next for the BJP?
30 Dec 05 |  South Asia
Is the BJP's leader a lame duck?
10 Jun 05 |  South Asia


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