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Vadodara is Modi’s 2nd seat; Advani stays in Gandhinagar
Modi meets RSS chief Bhagwat to clear air over Advani's candidature
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 19
The BJP’s Central Election Committee (CEC) today “unanimously” decided to field veteran leader LK Advani from Gandhinagar in Gujarat overruling his desire to contest from Bhopal. The panel also cleared party’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from a second seat — Vadodara in Gujarat — apart from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.

Including the two big names, the CEC cleared a list of 67 candidates, largely from Gujarat, Rajasthan and UP. Actor Hema Malini will make her electoral debut from Mathura and Olympic medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore from Jaipur (Rural).

However, the talk of the day was yet another controversy generated by Advani in a clear sign of unease between Modi and his former mentor. Seemingly, the BJP patriarch insisted he would contest from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and not Gandhinagar in Gujarat, a constituency that had sent him Lok Sabha five times.

Sources say he also conveyed to BJP chief Rajnath Singh his right to choose a constituency, considering that most of senior leaders had been accommodated as per choice. The issue figured in meetings of the BJP’s parliamentary board and the CEC, both of which Advani skipped. Advani, till the filing of this report, had not confirmed whether or not he would comply with the wishes of the CEC. Not wanting to be seen dependent on Modi for his Lok Sabha candidature, sources say the veteran leader has decided to take the final call after the candidate for the Bhopal constituency is announced.

Sources though say the party patriarch was being convinced to return to Gandhinagar and help avoid generating further controversy and embarrassment for the party. Though the party denied it, but Advani’s desire to shift from Gandhinagar came as a proof of the uneasy relationship he shares with his one-time protégé. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan is now close to Advani and the camp considers Bhopal a “safer seat” for the veteran keeping in mind his public outbursts against the Gujarat CM.

Advani had first opposed the BJP’s decision to elevate Modi as the face of the party's campaign and later as its PM candidate. Though the two leaders patched up publicly, but today’s turn of events indicate the relationship continues to be as tumultuous as ever.

Sources say Advani is worried on how much support he would get from local cadres after he upped the ante against Modi. A section of the BJP leadership also called it his way of ensuring that the state leadership and cadres in Gujarat do not work against him. “If after this Advani contests from Gandhinagar but does not win, the blame would fall on Modi,” they say.

The BJP is trying to persuade Advani to contest from Gandhinagar as shifting him would send a wrong signal to the cadres and also give ready ammo to Opposition parties against Modi. There were frantic efforts by senior leaders, including Rajnath Singh, to get Advani on board.

Considering the damage another open rift could do to the party on poll eve, ideologue RSS also stepped in. Senior leaders considered close to him, such as Sushma Swaraj, were requested to pitch in. BJP former president Nitin Gandkari and Sushma also made late night visits to Advani’s residence.

Modi also went to RSS headquarters after the CEC meeting, apparently to clear the air over Advani’s candidature with Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat. The RSS is closely monitoring BJP’s campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, including selection of candidates

Coming at a time when all appeared to be falling in place for the party, the episode comes as another embarrassment. Some feel it is a last-ditch effort by those who do not want the party under Modi’s leadership to cross the 160-170 mark. Perhaps, the last word on the issue is yet to be said. There are other possibilities, including Advani choosing to drop out of the electoral fray altogether. 

Efforts on to placate Advani

* LK Advani has represented Gandhinagar (Gujarat) five times in the LS, but insisted on contesting from Bhopal this time

* The Advani camp considers Bhopal a “safer seat” for the veteran keeping in mind his public outbursts against Modi

* Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari met the party patriarch to persuade him to accept the decision

BJP closer to sewing grand alliance in TN

Chennai: After days of haggling over seat-sharing with its allies, the BJP seems to be all set to firm up a formidable alliance in Tamil Nadu to fight the April 24 Lok Sabha polls. Sources in the BJP said the party was inching closer towards finalising a pact with cine star-turned politician Vijayakanth's DMDK, Vaiko-led MDMK, PMK headed by Ramadoss, Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi and IJK. 





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