BJP students’ union leaders after their victory in the Delhi University polls on Saturday. Telegraph picture
New Delhi, Sept. 14: Sushma Swaraj and three other BJP leaders spent nearly two hours with L.K. Advani this morning, following which the Lok Sabha Opposition leader declared: “No one’s upset.”
But BJP president Rajnath Singh, whose “style of functioning” was targeted by Advani in his Friday missive, has since not spoken to Advani.
The RSS has made it plain that the veteran’s “shenanigans” should not be countenanced henceforth and no more official outreaches to him were required.
Sources said in the evening that Advani was “still very upset” by the turn of events leading to Narendra Modi’s proclamation yesterday as the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister that led to an unusual dichotomy. The BJP’s workers and leaders were jubilant while the patriarch was completely isolated.
It was against this backdrop that the quartet of Sushma, BJP general secretaries Ananth Kumar and P. Murlidhar Rao, and BJP vice-president Balbir Punj — who are considered to be on Advani’s side — called on the veteran on their own.
Sources said Sushma apprised Advani of what happened at yesterday’s meeting where Modi was anointed the party’s candidate for Prime Minister.
The sources added that Advani was expected to attend a rally on September 25 in Bhopal, which was scheduled to be addressed by Modi.
Speculation was rife that the blog Advani posts every Sunday could be “explosive” tomorrow ahead of Modi’s first public rally after his anointment at Haryana’s Rewari. Former army chief V.K. Singh will share the dais with Modi. However, a source in the Advani camp denied the speculation on the blog.
When Advani met Sushma and company, the sources said, Advani brought up a letter written by Gujarat police officer D.G. Vanzara, in which the once-trusted Modi acolyte said he had only followed the encounter policy set by the political leadership.
Apparently, Advani asked Sushma and the others what impact Vanzara’s allegations would have on the images of Modi and the BJP.
According to a source, the collective view emerging from the get-together was that the Modi “euphoria” would not last long. “Such euphoria melts away as fast as it sets in,” a source said.
It is believed that Advani and his camp want to pressure Rajnath to “force” Modi to step down as the BJP’s central campaign committee chief.
A source in the central party said no discussions had yet started on the demand. But another said that if at all a change took place, Modi would be replaced by Arun Jaitley, not Sushma, who is Advani’s choice. As of now, the source said, Modi was not inclined to quit the post he was handed in Goa.
“How can Sushma oversee the nitty-gritty of a critical country-wide campaign when her own elections are managed by others? It is common knowledge in the BJP that Sushma steps in only after the groundwork is done to give speeches,” said the source.
Beneath Advani’s endeavour to put in place some kind of a ginger group and resist a complete takeover of the BJP by Modi is the fear that he might fade away as a footnote in the party’s contemporary history.
Advani’s secretariat and family members, sources said, were keen that his relevance remained. “The only way he can show he is still around and, more important, still matters is by darting pinpricks all the time. At least his pinpricks become fodder for the media and make headlines,” the source said.
For Sushma, Punj, Ananth and Rao — who have a long career ahead of them — the stakes are higher.
Ananth, an MP from Bangalore, is a sworn adversary of B.S. Yeddyurappa and is believed to have greatly influenced Advani and Sushma to push Yeddyurappa out of the BJP.
A dominant section now thinks the BJP should get Yeddyurappa back to cut its losses in Karnataka. The former chief minister welcomed Modi’s elevation and said it could facilitate his re-entry. Ananth’s friends like Prahlad Joshi and R. Ashok, who were just as vehemently opposed to Yeddyurappa, are coming round to the view that his return would do more good than harm to the BJP.
The quartet fears that in a Modi-Jaitley regime their space in policy and decision making would vastly diminish. “They must have felt that they need Advani to bolster their relevance and ensure their survival,” a source said.