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Modi cajoles, Advani blinks
- Patriarch nod to Gandhinagar

New Delhi, March 20: In less than an hour, Narendra Modi used a mix of words and his weighty style to coax an unwilling L.K. Advani to agree to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Gandhinagar.

In a statement this evening, Advani said, “This morning Shri Narendra Modi….also came over to my residence and emphasized that the people of Gujarat are keen that I represent Gandhinagar Lok Sabha once again…Having represented Gandhinagar…in the Lok Sabha since 1991, I have decided to contest the 2014 general elections from Gandhinagar itself.”

The communiqué, released by the BJP, capped the latest round of a Modi-Advani run-in. Their relations, which used to be cordial a long time ago, got vitiated because Advani refused to reconcile himself with the inevitability of a regime change in the BJP.

Until Modi’s call-on, Advani was bent on fighting from Bhopal, aware that his decision would have serious ramifications for the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister as well as the party that had just about managed to close ranks before the elections. Had he quit Gandhinagar, BJP sources said, it would have amounted to a vote of no-confidence against Modi. “It might have reinforced the view that Modi is authoritarian,” a source admitted.

Sources privy to the tête-à-tête said Modi plainly asked Advani why he did not trust him despite their long association and the long years the patriarch spent in Gujarat, Modi’s home turf. Modi, it seems, spoke to Advani like a “mother trying to cajole a disobedient child to heed her” would. The Gujarat chief minister asked if Advani seriously thought he (Modi) would shirk his responsibility of ensuring that he won Gandhinagar by an “unprecedented” margin.

BJP president Rajnath Singh tried to mollify Advani by offering a partial face-saver. Around the time that Modi was addressing a public meeting in Vidarbha in Maharashtra this afternoon, Rajnath issued a statement that said: “It is the unanimous view of the party that the choice of where to contest from should be left to Advaniji himself.” He stressed the BJP would “respect” Advani’s choice.

Rajnath mentioned that the Gujarat BJP had “unanimously” recommended Advani’s nomination from Gandhinagar. Then came the sop. Rajnath added that there was an “alternate suggestion” that Advani should contest from Bhopal so that the BJP’s “gains” in Madhya Pradesh would be “enhanced”. Like the Gujarat unit, he said the Madhya Pradesh BJP too had recommended Advani’s name.

Asked why Rajnath incorporated Bhopal in his statement, a source said: “It was an afterthought because we were given to understand that Advaniji was upset on being denied the so-called privilege that Rajnath and Modi had of choosing their seats. He felt he should have been allowed to exercise a similar prerogative and was said to be shocked when the party announced his name from Gandhinagar.

So the president inserted that Advaniji too had an option between Gandhinagar and Bhopal so that it appeared that nobody had foisted their decision on him.”

Not everyone in the BJP was pleased with Rajnath’s gesture. However, the RSS suggested that Advani deserved a “sweetener” to coat yesterday’s “bitter pill”.

This morning, as Advani ostensibly dug in his heels, the BJP embarked on a familiar ritual that decreed that senior leaders call on him at his residence to “manao” (placate) the sulking veteran.

Friend and peer Jaswant Singh came to his help by threatening a revolt if he was denied a seat from Barmer, his old constituency in Rajasthan. The chief minister in Jaipur, Vasundhara Raje, is keen to field Congress defector Colonel Sona Ram, said sources. Sona Ram is a Jat and Jaswant, a Rajput.


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