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Advani's pre-emptive strike to stop Modi as PM candidate

Last updated on: June 10, 2013 20:38 IST

Narendra Modi and L K AdvaniL K Advani had no option but to strike now to ensure that Narendra Modi is not announced as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate under any circumstances before the general election, says Sheela Bhatt.

Lal Krishna Advani is doing something unthinkable for an 85-year-old veteran because he fears that the party that he founded and nurtured will surely declare Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, if not soon then on the eve of the general election, a colleague of Advani told rediff.com.   

His hunch is that the party won’t keep things vague. He also understands that after the Mohammed Ali Jinnah controversy, the thread of trust between him and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been broken and he is unable to win back his esteemed colleagues of yesteryear. Since the RSS is not listening, he has been forced to take the extreme step of resigning from all posts in the Bharatiya Janata Party. 

However, it can be safely said that he is the best judge of contemporary Indian political trends. He knows there was never such a golden opportunity for the opposition party to trounce the incumbent as it now has. He also knows a few weaknesses of his shishya-turned-challenger Modi. He is trying to highlight that now before it is too late. 

One of the issues he is talking about relates to the character of the BJP. The party with an institutionalised decision-making process where collective leadership works behind the scenes is changing, and that’s not just done, feels Advani. As Modi takes the centre-stage, the internal working would change. Modi is unlikely to follow the great tradition of ‘collective leadership’. 

Also, in spite of his fall from an  undisputed position in the party and Sangh Parivar after the Jinnah controversy, Advani thinks that he has done enough in the party to send the message down that the ‘Hindu family tradition’ of respecting the elderly can’t be violated so brazenly by the new generation leaders with a ‘personal agenda’. Yashwant Sinha’s brief statement also highlighted this point. 

Advani thinks that Modi has beaten him in the game of ‘propaganda’ with the help of the media, and the argument that the cadre wants Modi is ‘the grand conspiracy’ designed by the Modi camp and bought by the media. 

Above all, Advani has created the scene to embarrass his own party because Modi and his team are marching ahead with an elaborate plan to carpet-bomb the Hindi belt with their political rallies, sabhas and media blitz, on a scale the country has never seen before. In a cheap aside, some leaders smirk, "Modi has got the votes and notes." Once Modi unveils his next plan to attack the United Progressive Alliance, it will be too late for Advani to speak out. 

In 2009, he missed the chance of a lifetime to become prime minister but circumstances today are much matured, much easier for the opposition parties to grab power.

Also, once Modi is declared as its PM candidate before the election, there is no way BJP can change track as per the National Democratic Alliance’s demands after the election. It will belittle the RSS more than Modi if he is asked to step aside by the BJP's secular allies.

So Advani had no option but to strike now to ensure that Modi is not announced as the prime ministerial candidate under any circumstances before the general election.

There are two reasons behind his timing, say insiders.

One, he wants to be considered as the party's prime ministerial candidate, considering that it was he who single-handedly raised the party's Lok Sabha from single digits in 1984 to a respectable figure.

And two, this is more important, he knows that once the UPA implements the Food Security Bill through the ordinance route, the government will have moved into election mode by which time Modi, too, as chief of the election campaign committee will have consolidated his place, emerging as the rival for the Congress. Advani's calculation is if he waits till then, he will have missed the bus altogether.

Hence his pre-emptive move at this point in time.

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi