The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 2 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Push for Gadkari-Modi double bill

New Delhi, Jan. 1: The RSS and the BJP top brass are being pressured to declare the party’s “face” for the 2014 general elections simultaneously with the anointment of the next party president.

RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat is learnt to have “prevailed” on colleagues that incumbent president Nitin Gadkari must get a second term despite the belief of several party leaders that his time is up after allegations of controversial financial deals.

Gadkari’s tenure ended on December 18 but he is continuing as the electoral college to “elect” the next party chief hasn’t been constituted yet. Under the BJP constitution, the college comprises newly elected or re-elected office-bearers in 50 per cent of the states or more.

The process of its formation is under way and is scheduled to be over by January 12. Nominations are likely to be filed on January 15. If there is only one contender — as is the case so far — the nominee is deemed “elected” unopposed and declared the new party chief.

Sources said the RSS and Gadkari want his nomination as well as the “election” after Makar Sankranti, the January 14 festival that is said to usher in an auspicious period.

“The real reason for the delay is not that the state office-bearers’ election could not have been hastened. It is because the Sangh, specifically Bhagwat, is waiting for the festival,” a source said.

But it isn’t only about getting Gadkari installed again. Sources said after Narendra Modi’s third victory, Bhagwat and his team are being advised by a section of the BJP and the Gujarat chief minister’s overseas fan clubs to declare him the prime ministerial candidate simultaneously. “The two things should happen together if we want our cadres in battle mode,” an office-bearer said.

But sources admitted glitches in part two of the job. First, Modi has made it clear he wants to carry on as chief minister for now.

Second, Modi and the parivar feel his acceptability — not within the NDA so much as outside of Gujarat — is yet to be tested. “Although there is a tremendous buzz within the BJP rank and file, we have to ascertain how much of this is fact,” a source said.

One proposal is to get Modi to head the BJP’s campaign committee — as the Congress has done with Rahul Gandhi. Sources said the position would require him to travel across the country and gauge the extent of his “popularity” .

Asked if Modi’s peers — Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh — and seniors, notably L.K. Advani, would accept such a declaration with equanimity, the source suggested they would. “Advaniji went to his swearing-in and got a sense that Modi’s ascendancy to the national stage was inevitable. As for his peers, once a decision is enforced from the top, that is the Sangh, we have rarely encountered opposition. And despite its misgivings, the RSS has realised Modi is the BJP’s only vote-multiplier today.”