Rajnath Singh, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, formally took over and president of the Bharatiya Janata Party in New Delhi on Monday.
Former president L K Advani announced his takeover in the presence of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh, Venkaiah Naidu, Pramod Mahajan, chief ministers of Chattisgarh and Jharkhand Raman Singh and Arjun Munda and other senior leaders.
54-year-old Singh was emotional while taking over the responsibility particularly as Vajpayee had come to greet the new president.
Speaking on the occasion, Vajpayee assured Singh that the BJP was behind him and he should take up the challenges to the party in right earnestness. "It is a bed of thorns. It is a crown of thorns. Advaniji had ably carried the party as president and his guidance will be available to his successor," he said. He also mentioned that Singh had held his various responsibilities with distinction.
Advani said, "Singh's name was arrived at after due deliberations and it is hoped that the BJP will reach greater heights under his leadership."
While senior Uttar Pradesh party leaders Kalraj Mishra and Lalji Tandon were present, former chief minister and BJP vice-president Kalyan Singh, considered to be Rajnath's rival, was conspicuous by his absence. However, party leaders claimed that Kalyan Singh was not well.
Rajnath Singh later went to the BJP president's chamber and formally took charge, after garlanding the bust of party founder Deen Dayal Upadhaya.
Later addressing party workers who had thronged the party headquarters in large numbers, Singh recalled Vajpayee's speech at the party's launch in Mumbai and said, "It is not a post but a responsibility. It is not an honour, but a test."
"We will excell in the examinations with the guidance of leaders like Vajpayee, Advani, Jaswant Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi and others. It will not be difficult for us to excel in the examinations," he said.
Singh said only the BJP can take on the crisis of confidence in Indian polity as a challenge