|Narendra Modi speaks at the rally at Ambikapur in Chhattisgarh on Saturday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Sept. 7: BJP president Rajnath Singh has asked Nitin Gadkari and a “couple of other” leaders to make one last attempt to “persuade” L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj to green-flag an announcement of Narendra Modi as the party’s Prime Minister candidate, a source privy to internal developments said.
If Advani and Sushma continue to oppose an announcement, Rajnath would personally inform them that the BJP’s “mind was made up” and, therefore, he would go ahead with the declaration, the source added. Sangh leaders met Rajnath and Modi in Delhi late tonight.
Sources said the process could be clinched by mid-September and an exercise was under way to zero in on a “propitious” date and time for the announcement.
Between the lines, RSS communications head Manmohan Vaidya indicated to the media today that it was in no doubt on who the BJP’s Prime Minister candidate was.
“Elections are round the corner. People are seeking an alternative, they are eager for an alternative (to the UPA). They have to eventually elect the alternative. For the past several months, our workers have also sussed out people’s opinion on the ground and we have no doubt as to who is the people’s choice this time,” Vaidya said in response to a question on Modi.
RSS sources said while sarsanghachalak Mohanrao Bhagwat and his close associates were “more than acquainted” with the various views in the BJP on an announcement. But they were also clear that there would be no rethink about Modi and that an early decision was imperative to end the “damage” the party had “suffered” because of the open jockeying for the leadership sweepstakes.
“The RSS leaders want to finish this free for all. They are shocked at the conduct of the BJP’s Delhi leaders. They are convinced that all they seek is self-aggrandisement and not the party’s good. No wonder not one of them is acceptable to the cadre or to the larger community of supporters,” a source close to the Sangh hierarchy said.
Although Modi was anathema to the RSS to start with, what swung the ratings for him was not just his “popularity” but his “supreme credibility” with the workers and his “ability to convince” that the country and the BJP’s “interests” are paramount for him.
Gadkari, not exactly a Modi votary, initially used the same arguments with Bhagwat and the others that Advani and Sushma have repeatedly marshalled: Modi is communally “divisive”, “functionally undemocratic”, a “control freak”, that presiding over India was not the same as governing Gujarat, etc.
But once Gadkari figured out that Bhagwat was “unmoved” by his line of reasoning, he “gave up” and willingly accepted the mandate to work on Advani and Sushma, BJP sources said.
The former party president defended Modi today. After a BJP programme, he referred to the Vanzara controversy and told journalists: “No matter how much the Congress tries to spread wrong rumours about Modi, the people of the country know the truth and, therefore, the rumours will have no impact.”
The BJP’s vacillators, who weren’t terribly enthused about Modi and had initially hitched their wagons to a competing star like Sushma, have slowly backed off.
If Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had, on Friday, relented to Modi gracing the concluding show of his pre-poll yatra, Delhi’s Vijay Goel declared today that Modi would hold his first big rally in the national capital on September 29 at north Delhi’s massive “Japani Park”.
Lately, the only person Sushma has for political company is general secretary Ananth Kumar, who is reportedly still out to scuttle moves to get back Karnataka rebel, B.S. Yeddyurappa, into the BJP.