Modi being offered sweets after the declaration in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Sept. 13: Narendra Modi was proclaimed the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister after party president Rajnath Singh, prodded and pushed by the RSS, managed to wheedle the support of all dissenters except L.K. Advani.
The declaration marked a remarkable turn in the eventful career of a one-time tea stall boy who is now adored by industrialists and pilloried by those who hold him responsible for the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.
Advani refused to yield to the persistent entreaties of Rajnath and his colleagues, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, to anoint Modi and signal that it was unanimous.
It is believed that Advani almost relented and was set to leave his home with his security cavalcade to attend a meeting of the parliamentary board that finally ratified Modi’s nomination.
However, when it was time to depart, Advani changed his mind and stayed away. Some sources said the sight of a protest outside his home by an aide of a former associate may have upset Advani further.
Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley later said Advani’s absence had left the rest of them “sad” but added that in anointing Modi, the BJP had taken into account the “overwhelming response” from the party cadres.
Rajnath also cited “popular mood and cadre sentiments” — a combination that has left even the RSS with little option but to throw its weight behind Modi.
Advani sent a missive to Rajnath in which he voiced his “anguish” and “disappointment” with the BJP chief’s “style of functioning” and the way in which the process leading to Modi’s elevation was conducted. Advani said he initially thought he would share his views with the board but later felt it was “inappropriate” to attend the sitting.
Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj, who worked in tandem with Advani in the attempt to scupper Modi’s nomination, finally joined the show. Their grim visages left none in doubt that it was a decision that was pushed down their throats.
Modi, whose political reflexes are canny when it suits his interests, made it a point to genuflect before Joshi and Sushma once the deed was done.
Modi later drove to Advani’s home to “seek his blessings”. In the half hour or so that it took for his retinue to make the trip, huge posters of the putative Prime Minister had lined the streets outside Advani’s home. Modi also called on Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Earlier at sundown, the BJP headquarters on Ashoka Road had erupted in a flurry of celebrations as Rajnath and the nine other members of the parliamentary board, the party’s highest policy-making body, drove in to formally announce Modi’s name.
Advani’s absence and dissenting note to Rajnath went unnoticed by the BJP workers and office-bearers who had packed the lawns, armed with crackers, joss sticks, flowers and sweets. Before Modi arrived, the office resonated with cries of “Modi PM”.
Sources who were wary of speaking out against Advani in the past today traduced him for being “petty and churlish”. With Modi dominating the BJP’s politicalscape, it is clear that Advani is history.
This morning, when Naidu and Gadkari met Advani, sources said, he told them that his endorsement would follow only if Modi was asked to step down as Gujarat chief minister and relocate to Delhi. Advani also wanted Sushma to replace Modi as the central campaign committee chief.
The nuts-and-bolts campaign panel job acquired a different mandate when Modi was handed the assignment.
Advani, Sushma and the others reportedly felt he would enjoy a veto in candidate selection, strengthen his loyalty base and equip himself to fight the decisive battle in case the BJP emerged as the single largest party in 2014 but needed more allies to stitch a majority.
Rajnath rejected Advani’s conditions out of hand. It is learnt that Rajnath said that as the campaign panel head and candidate for Prime Minister, Modi was not carrying constitutional positions. Therefore, it made “no sense” for him to quit as chief minister.
Sources said Advani had “conveniently forgotten” that in 2008, when he was chosen as the candidate for Prime Minister, he had continued functioning as the Lok Sabha Opposition leader.