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Advani swallows Modi victory laddoo

Defiant duo’s all’s-well note

Narendra Modi and LK Advani are locked in embrace before the BJP’s parliamentary board meeting in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)

New Delhi, May 17: Friday’s petulant duo, L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj, arrived on time this afternoon to receive Narendra Modi on his first visit to the party headquarters as Prime Minister-designate.

Appropriately enough, the pair, who had tried to damn Modi with faint praise after yesterday’s election victory, made themselves available for photo-ops to help send out an “all is well” message.

Party sources had suggested that BJP cadres were furious at Advani and Sushma for their spoilsport responses yesterday, and that they could lose out over party and government postings.

The BJP brass today assembled on a makeshift dais to address the media after a meeting of the parliamentary board, the party’s highest policy and decision-making body. It was clarified that the leaders would not take questions.

The “all is well” optics saw Modi genuflecting before Advani who offered him a laddoo and embraced him. The same gestures were played out before another veteran, Murli Manohar Joshi, who has been blowing hot and cold on Modi.

Sushma smiled at Modi, shook hands and exchanged a few words with him when they sat down. Advani had yesterday struck a lukewarm note on Modi’s contribution to the poll triumph while Sushma had credited the victory entirely to the BJP.

Party president Rajnath Singh did not pass up the opportunity to underline, with visual motifs, an unstated message that he and Modi formed sort of a present-day Atal-Advani jodi (pair).

He received Modi at Delhi airport in the morning but judiciously allowed him a solo appearance when the motorcade rolled through the capital’s streets to its Ashoka Road destination.

Rajnath later accompanied Modi to Varanasi. He told the media that the date for Modi’s swearing-in had not yet been fixed.

The parliamentary board will meet on May 20 to formally elect Modi as its leader. The newly elected National Democratic Alliance MPs will then follow suit.

“After the parliamentary party leader is elected, a date for the swearing-in will be decided,” Rajnath said.

He indicated that Gujarat’s MLAs would elect a new chief minister before that, possibly early next week, in the presence of central observer and general secretary Thawarchand Gehlot.

Sources said the process of drawing up the first list of cabinet ministers and deputy ministers would kick off tomorrow.

Modi, they said, would return from Varanasi tonight and stay back in Delhi tomorrow to start the consultations with senior party colleagues. “He has a series of appointments tonight,” a source said.

There will be consultations also with the major allies such as the Shiv Sena, Telugu Desam Party and Lok Janshakti Party — who have won a sizeable number of seats — as well as the Shiromani Akali Dal, which is left with just four MPs.

Rajnath emphasised that the allies would be “part and parcel” of a Modi government. The Akalis are one of the BJP’s oldest and most durable allies and would therefore be represented in the cabinet, sources said.

A resolution adopted by the parliamentary board noted: “The people of India have spoken and spoken decisively. For the first time since Independence, a non-Congress political party has got a majority on its own.”

It added: “The NDA has got an overwhelming mandate to govern. India needs a government which is effectively led, and which can put the country’s economy on a growth track, make it secure and provide a government in accordance with the highest standards of probity.”

Modi had stressed the first point in his victory speech at Vadodara yesterday.

“After Independence, most governments were formed by the Congress. The few times the BJP came to power, it was in a coalition. This is the first time that we have won purely on our own, with a national agenda based on governance,” he had said.

He had added that all the Prime Ministers India had had so far were born before Independence.

“This is the first election in which the leadership of the parties (the Congress and the BJP) has been in the hands of people born in Independent India.”

Modi was born on September 17, 1950, three years after India became Independent. Rahul Gandhi was born 20 years after Modi, on June 19, 1970.