|File picture of Modi, (above) Advani at the thermal power unit in Chhattisgarh’s Korba on Monday. (PTI)
Sept. 16: L.K. Advani has “accepted” Narendra Modi as prime ministerial candidate but seems in no mood to “forgive” the BJP for sidelining him.
“He (Modi) will bring the same pace of development in the country that he brought in Gujarat,” Advani said today in his first public event since Modi was anointed on Friday at a meeting the veteran had refused to attend.
Advani, speaking at an event to open a power unit set up by Chhattisgarh’s BJP government in Korba, referred to Modi as his “sathi (colleague)” and showered praises for his work in Gujarat. “I am happy Gujarat is the first state to take electricity to each village.”
At the same time, the veteran commended the work done by Modi’s peers including Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh and Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Chouhan. “Today, if he (Modi) has been entrusted with the responsibility of the country by my party BJP, all good tasks undertaken by our governments in various states would be carried out all over the country,” Advani told reporters later.
But the former deputy Prime Minister — who had held the status of the party’s Prime Minister-in-waiting until recently — walked away when asked if his resentment with the BJP was over.
Sources saw another motive for today’s “tactical” praise of Modi. “The BJP could emerge the single-largest party short of a majority. He is counting on the belief that Modi will not fetch allies. Someone more acceptable could jump in, backed by Advani. His first choice would be Sushma (Swaraj). But if he burns his bridges completely with Modi now, his game-plan might not take off,” a source said.
Many in the BJP feel Advani is going through the “most confused” phase of his career. “He has not reconciled to present-day dynamics and the inevitability of change. The BJP and the RSS tried their best to cushion him against shocks,” the source said.
Advani, the source stressed, should have “reciprocated”. “After he resigned (following Modi’s appointment as national campaign head) in Goa in May, the RSS chief took the unusual step of first speaking to him on phone and then calling on him when he consented to withdraw his resignation. If Mohanrao Bhagwat extended such courtesies, the least Advani could have done was to reciprocate and endorse the RSS’s choice of Modi.”
Advani, the source said, had crossed some “red lines”. “There are certain red lines you cannot cross in the Sangh parivar and one of them is defying the chief even if the chief is younger.” Advani is 85 while Bhagwat is in his early sixties.
Last night, Advani met Modi at Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani’s 90th birthday party. But their exchange was limited to Modi touching Advani’s feet and exchanging pleasantries.
Advani has so far agreed to address a party meet in Bhopal on September 25 with Modi and Chouhan. But sources aren’t sure if Advani will eventually show up. “Huge numbers are expected, mainly to listen to Modi. We have to see if he is able to digest it,” a state MP said.
In Delhi, campaign managers are trying to ensure Modi’s detractors, mainly Advani and Sushma, don’t have to share space with him.