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Advani told to take seat or leave it

New Delhi, March 19: The BJP today announced that L.K. Advani will indeed contest the Lok Sabha polls from Gandhinagar, his parliamentary constituency since 1991, despite serious reservations expressed by the veteran leader.

Advani had wanted to move to Bhopal, fearing that his public opposition to Narendra Modi’s ascendancy as the prime ministerial candidate might have angered the BJP cadre and put off his voters and, therefore, jeopardised his chances of getting re-elected from the Gujarat capital.

Advani expressed his resentment yet again by staying away from the BJP’s parliamentary board that met here this morning to clinch his candidacy as well as the nominations for the other 25 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat.

No BJP leader actively reached out to pacify Advani, not even his closest confidant, Sushma Swaraj, who sat through the daylong sessions of the parliamentary board and later the central election committee. BJP president Rajnath Singh, however, called Advani to say his candidacy from Gandhinagar would be declared during this meeting. It is learnt that Advani promptly went into a “deep sulk”.

Besides, the BJP decided that Modi will fight from a constituency in Gujarat as well. Vadodara was picked for him to placate the BJP cadre as well as a larger constituency of voters who demanded that his home state should not be ignored.

The row over Advani though dominated the BJP’s proceedings today. Advani said since his candidature was the “main” subject of discussion and a decision would be taken on whether he would stand from Gandhinagar or Bhopal, his presence was “inappropriate”.

Sources in the Advani camp felt that the veteran would have to depend critically on Narendra Modi to deliver the results in Gandhinagar and get yoked to him for the next five years. “He would have to play second fiddle to Modi,” a source said.

Gandhinagar has not been an easy seat for Advani and the BJP since 2004. Advani would have to rely on Modi confidants Anandi Patel and Amit Shah for a bailout because Gandhinagar includes their Assembly seats that they had won in 2012 with big margins. The Congress holds the other Assembly seats.

BJP sources admitted if the Congress put up an aggressive fight, it could well wrest Gandhinagar from the BJP, “Modi or no Modi”.

Advani’s candidacy from Gandhinagar signalled the message that the old order was irrevocably on its way out and the Modi regime was here to stay — for at least some time. Unlike Modi and Rajnath, who personally opted to contest from Varanasi and Lucknow, Advani was not given a choice. Like his peer, Murli Manohar Joshi, who too forfeited Varanasi for Modi, kicking and screaming, and later consented to move to Kanpur.

It is learnt that the RSS’s diktat was clear: contest in the places the party chooses or else leave the fray. A month ago, when the Rajya Sabha biennial elections took place, Advani and Joshi were offered the option of going to the Upper House. Both said no. The BJP and RSS “reluctantly” agreed but sources said they were not willing to brook the shenanigans the veterans threw up.


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