There is something about planes and BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya. In 2005, he was almost dropped from the list of ministers to be sworn in, because leaders felt he would not reach the Raj Bhavan in Bhopal in time for the ceremony. Vijayvargiya hitched a ride from Indore to Bhopal on a trainer aircraft and beat the odds.
This March, a photograph showed him on a chartered aircraft with rebel Congress MLAs from Uttarakhand. BJP president Amit Shah had asked him to topple the Harish Rawat government in the hill state. Vijayvargiya made two visits to Dehradun and unleashed hell on the government, in the middle of the budget session.
He has always been aggressive, in action and choice of words. As general secretary in charge of West Bengal, Vijayvargiya led protest marches against the Trinamool Congress government. In December 2015, he was injured when the police thrashed protestors in North 24 Parganas district in Bengal.
“I am at the disposal of my party president,” said Vijayvargiya, about his deployment in battlefields away from Madhya Pradesh. “Whatever he says, I am there to complete the mission. I was sent to Haryana, and now Uttarakhand, because the party trusts me.” In Haryana, he helped the BJP cut loose from Kuldeep Bishnoi's Haryana Janhit Congress and sweep the state in 2014.
Among all eight BJP general secretaries, Vijayvargiya is considered to be the one closest to Shah, and second only to Ram Madhav in terms of clout and networking.
Vijayvargiya's cross-party link helped him net the rebels in Uttarakhand. He is known to be on good terms with Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, despite Singh and Shah being at loggerheads.
Vijayvargiya's bond with Shah dates back to when he was in charge of the Gujrat unit of Yuva Morcha, youth wing of the BJP. Then, Shah was exiled from the state in the Sohrabuddin murder case, and Vijayvargiya was based in Indore, just across the state line.
Vijayvargiya rose to prominence in 1998 when he was elected mayor of Indore, the biggest city in Madhya Pradesh. He put up a stellar performance, improving infrastructure and medical and educational facilities. Digvijaya Singh was chief minister then, and, so he got the quiet support of the state machinery.
Critics say that thanks to his performance and mass appeal, the BJP overlooked his running feud with Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Indore MP since 1989. In Indore, Mahajan is called tai (mother) and Vijayvargiya bhai (brother). In the 2008 assembly elections, he surprised everyone by giving up his pocket borough of Indore to his friend Ramesh Mendola. He then ran from Mhow, 25km from Indore.
“His style of politics is different,” said Vishnu Dutt Sharma of Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan. “That is why he makes friends out of difficult people. He may not be with you in fair weather, but when you are in trouble, he will stand by you and win you over. He has many enemies because of his aggression, but he has an equal number of friends.”
For all his aggression, Vijayvargiya is a vegan and is known for his saffron shawl and colourful jackets. BJP insiders are divided on what the future holds for him. Some think Shah wants him to be an alternate power centre to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. After packing off Uma Bharti to Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has failed to develop a second line of leadership in MP. Others think he is being groomed for a larger national role, as a new Pramod Mahajan.