Narendra Modi at a Vibrant Gujarat agriculture summit in Gandhinagar on Monday. (AP)
New Delhi, Sept. 11: BJP president Rajnath Singh is making one last effort to coax L.K. Advani to endorse Narendra Modi as candidate for Prime Minister, but is likely to go ahead with the announcement by the weekend whether the patriarch agrees or not.
Sources said Rajnath had had “no luck” so far. He called on Advani at his residence this morning but the meeting barely lasted half an hour. Advani iterated that the BJP should wait until the November-December state elections before announcing its candidate.
This is unacceptable to the RSS, which suspects he may use the “delay” to buy more time on a decision on Modi and leave the BJP with no option but to fight the 2014 polls without a face.
Prodded by the Sangh, Rajnath is eager to anoint Modi before the inauspicious shradh period sets in on September 19 and ready to disregard Advani but has been wary the disunity in the parivar could mar the show. The RSS too wants Modi’s elevation to be unanimous.
Yesterday, former party president Nitin Gadkari had visited Advani and asked him on behalf of the Sangh to announce Modi’s candidature in his capacity as the BJP’s seniormost leader. Advani said he was ready, provided the announcement was made after the year-end Assembly elections, the sources said.
Rajnath called on another veteran, Murli Manohar Joshi, tonight and is expected to either phone or visit other parliamentary board members over the next two days. His message: the RSS has cleared Modi’s name and, therefore, a formal announcement is in order. Sources close to Rajnath said it could come as early as Friday.
While Sushma Swaraj had teamed up with Advani, Joshi, too, is learnt to have had reservations on Modi’s hurried projection. Swaraj has said that she has spoken her mind but would abide by any decision the organisation takes, sources said. Joshi has been assured that as a party senior, his interests would be looked after.
In Thiruvananthapuram today, another senior leader Arun Jaitley said: “The writing on the wall is clear.... Whatever decisions we have to take, be rest assured, we will announce them very soon.”
Without naming Modi, Jaitley said: “When… the principal Opposition party is able to throw up a powerful and popular leader, then elections can also become quasi-presidential.”
Sources said Advani appeared reconciled that he cannot stop Modi’s projection but does not want to surrender without his pound of flesh.
“How can Modi be the chief minister of Gujarat, campaign committee chief and prime ministerial candidate at the same time,” asked a leader close to Advani, hinting that Modi should quit the other two posts.
Modi is unwilling to resign as Gujarat chief minister. He could be open to stepping down as campaign chief if a leader of his choice gets the post but Advani wants it to go to someone he chooses.
Party leaders are surprised by Advani’s dogged opposition since it has meant going against the Sangh.