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Storm in BJP intensifies over Modi
Rajnath works overtime to build consensus as Advani skips National Executive
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Panaji, June 8
The BJP appeared a house divided a day before the party’s crucial National Executive decides which of its leaders — stalwart LK Advani or the “popular” Narendra Modi — emerges as the first among the equals and ultimately the prime ministerial candidate.

In the monsoon-drenched “sussegad”, a word used in the local dialect to describe the Goan way of life and its laid-back existence, the hectic political activity here appears to be anything but that. Party chief Rajnath Singh is reportedly working overtime to build a consensus within the party and its allies. Advani not only missed the conclave due to “ill health”, but the avid blog writer also maintained grim silence on the issue that is virtually hogging the political mind space in the country.

While the gleeful Congress openly mocked BJP’s “sick” leaders, the unease within the saffron fold was perceptible.

The fact, as much as the BJP leaders may deny, is that there is an out and out war for the PM candidature in the party struggling with the problem of plenty. Advani has made his opposition to Modi’s rising stature amply clear by not attending even a single day of the crucial three-day meeting to devise the party’s strategy for the 2014 General Elections, something he has never done in his entire political career.

Though senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar explained that the senior leader was unwell and party president Rajnath Singh had advised him to take rest, his statement “(when) the season changes, many people fall ill” seemed telling. But whether the "change in season" will be allowed by the section that believes Modi’s “non-secular credentials” will lead to polarisation of votes in a distinct anti-Congress atmosphere is to be seen. The emerging situations can be summed up as follows: If Modi is anointed the chairman of the poll panel, as planned earlier, it could be curtains for Advani, the man responsible for building the party into a mass organisation, and if the decision (to appoint Modi) is stalled, it means that the 85-year-old still has it in him to swing the wind in his favour.

Advani did manage to scuttle Nitin Gadkari’s re-appointment as the party president, so there is no reason to undermine him. This time, Advani has not just managed to make his presence felt by stealing Modi’s thunder, but also put a huge question mark on his elevation as the election panel chief despite the blessings of the party’s ideologue, the RSS.

Amid these two extreme situations, there is also speculation of a compromise formula to placate Advani, a methodology that may also be acceptable to Modi. Hectic attempts are on to bring Advani on board with the help of a dual-power creation to space out the control of the party and dilute Modi’s emergence as the single authority.

Apparently, Advani wanted the decision on Modi’s elevation to be taken after the elections in five states this year because, according to him, the elevation would polarise votes and shift the focus in favour of the Congress. This is the first time in his political career that Advani did not attend a structured party meeting, indicating that his opposition to Modi's elevation had been ignored.

Interestingly, Advani was responsible for Modi getting a lease of life in 2002 when Atal Behari Vajpayee wanted him to resign following the Gujarat riots. Life has come full circle for the veteran leader as he engages with his once-upon-a-time protégée.

In this opposition to Modi, Advani is not alone. Apart from senior leaders Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Uma Bharti and Jaswant Sinha, Yashwant Singh also said today that illness was not the reason for skipping the Goa meet.

Crucial Sunday

  • If Modi is named BJP’s poll panel head, it could be curtains for Advani, the man behind making the party a mass organisation
  • If Modi’s appointment is stalled, it means Advani still has it in him to swing the wind in his favour
  • Advani did manage to scuttle Nitin Gadkari’s re-appointment as BJP president and has stolen Modi’s thunder at Goa, so there’s no reason to undermine him
  • Party president Rajnath Singh is said to be working on a compromise formula to placate Advani





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