BJP leader LK Advani in Ranchi before leaving for Hazaribagh to meet Yashwant Sinha (in file picture below) on Tuesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
New Delhi, June 17: L.K. Advani’s endorsement of Yashwant Sinha as the BJP’s prospective chief ministerial candidate in Jharkhand while on a visit to a Hazaribagh jail to meet the former MP today has left the party’s central leaders in a fix.
Although the veteran’s writ no longer prevails over the BJP in the Narendra Modi regime, sources said they feared his statements, made in the presence of former chief minister Arjun Munda, might renew the intense jockeying for top stakes the state is known for.
Advani visited Sinha, at Anda Cell no 7 at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Central Jail at 12.30pm, to convince him to seek bail and lead his agitation against the state’s power crisis from outside.
By evening, Sinha obliged and his lawyers put in bail applications for him and 52 of his supporters at the court of chief judicial magistrate R.B. Pal.
The former BJP MP — his son Jayant is now the party MP from Hazaribagh — has been in jail for the last fortnight, ever since he was arrested for leading demonstrators who allegedly assaulted a state electricity board official.
Soon after, Advani, with whom Sinha is known to share a close rapport, lauded him for launching a “historic agitation” in the “cause of poor villagers for which he deserves all praise and support”.
In an apparent snipe at Munda, who accompanied Advani on his helicopter to Hazaribagh, the senior leader said, “Prior to this agitation, probably no other BJP leader in the state had ever launched such a significant movement in Jharkhand. Had this type of andolan been undertaken by the BJP, the picture of this state would have been different.”
Asked if Sinha had spearheaded the protest to stay active in Jharkhand politics, Advani replied, “Why not? He is capable of leading Jharkhand after the Assembly polls and being the right person to become the next chief minister of a state that requires good governance and able leadership particularly after the historic 2014 poll verdict.”
A BJP general secretary rejected Advani’s statement. “Such decisions cannot be taken unilaterally,” he said. “So far, the party has not thought of who will lead the BJP in the next election. A decision will be taken after protracted consultations with the top leaders and signed and sealed by the central parliamentary board.”
Munda declined to comment. But, a source close to him said, “We have a government at the Centre where perhaps Sinha can play a role,” indicating how a clash of egos is simmering within the BJP in Jharkhand.
Sinha, 76, opted to not contest the Lok Sabha polls after the RSS signalled that those over 70 should step back from active politics and mentor juniors. He expected to lead by example so that his peers, like Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, would emulate him. But they did not.
BJP sources said Sinha expected his son to get a junior minister’s berth in lieu of his “sacrifice”.
However, Modi decided he would not have seniors and legatees in his ministerial council. This was why Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s desire for a post for her son and MP Dushyant Singh was not conceded.
Likewise, despite being a good friend of Modi, the former Himachal Pradesh chief minister, Prem Kumar Dhumal, was politely told to not expect a place for his son and two-time MP Anurag Thakur.
Indeed, Sinha’s attempt to reprise Arvind Kejriwal’s “court arrest” and serve a jail stint left the Delhi leaders cold. BJP president Rajnath Singh spoke to him once. His only visitors, until Advani’s meeting today, were Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Shahnawaz Hussain and Shatrughan Sinha, who is a dear friend.
“For someone, who was the country’s finance and external affairs minister, to watch over a worker tie up an officer is unbecoming of his stature. Iska galat asar hua party pe (it had an adverse impact on the party),” a source claimed.
Sinha refused to take bail although Jayant maintained that he was charged under section 353 of IPC that does not allow for bail. “Even if he appeals for one, his plea will be rejected so it cannot be compared with Kejriwal’s case. The (Jharkhand) government has been intransigent,” he said.
While Jayant rebuffed the perception that the central BJP was largely indifferent to Sinha, it was reliably learnt that it was he who “persuaded” Advani to make the trip to Hazaribagh.
Sinha was among a handful in the BJP who initially dissented against the projection of Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. Later, when he saw how the scales were tipping, he changed his position.