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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Pramod Mahajan: BJP's modern face
By Zubair Ahmed
BBC correspondent, Mumbai

Pramod Mahajan
Mr Mahajan has played a key role in BJP reform
Pramod Mahajan - who has died after being shot - was one of the most recognised and respected political faces in India.

As general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the 56-year-old was a leading political personality.

Although he lacked a solid political base, he played a pivotal role in modernising the BJP, introducing the party to new technology.

As a federal minister in successive BJP governments, he was credited for bringing about a telecommunications revolution in the country.

Love of gimmickry

When journalists found him using an unusual telephone at a party conclave in 1999, he is said to have proudly told them he was using a satellite phone.

His idea of using mobile phones and other modern methods of communication in the 2004 parliamentary elections was equally novel.

Mr Mahajan's supporters claim this brought the party closer to the electorate, but his detractors believe the party lost those elections because of what they described as his over-reliance on gimmicks.

India shining advertisement campaign
Mr Mahajan was the architect of the India Shining campaign

He was the architect of the India Shining campaign during the 2004 elections, in which the BJP unsuccessfully tried to portray the country as economically flourishing.

They say that this combined with his over-confidence were his major weaknesses.

But when the BJP was successful at elections, Mr Mahajan was given credit for his technological innovations.

Although he rarely contested elections himself, he was considered the architect of many election victories for his party.

He was not just a master poll strategist, he was also a successful fund raiser and organiser of events for his party.

Foes and friends

His skills were on full show as recently as December when the party celebrated its silver jubilee anniversary on his home turf of Mumbai.

He was personally congratulated for the successful organisation of the three-day event by the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

But Mr Mahajan, whose political career began in 1986 in Mumbai when he was appointed the president of the party's youth wing, is said to have had as many foes in the party as friends.

His death is a big loss to our party
BJP spokesman VK Malhotra

He has been blamed by many for moving the BJP away from its culture of austerity and leading it to a "five-star hotel" culture.

Mr Mahajan was always accessible to the media and as a result sometimes found himself surrounded by controversy.

He was accused of favouring a big telecoms giant during his tenure as the telecommunications minister. His name was also dragged into a controversy surrounding the murder of a Delhi-based female journalist.

Within the party, he rose to prominence largely due to his organisational skills and it may well struggle to replace him.

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