The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 26 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Signal’ peps Modi camp

New Delhi, March 25: Narendra Modi’s supporters are spying a smoke signal in Rajnath Singh’s decision to attend the Gujarat chief minister’s celebrations of the BJP’s foundation day on April 6.

Rajnath, the party president, is expected to announce his team of office-bearers shortly before the anniversary. All eyes are focused on one prospective appointment: that of Modi to the party’s highest policy and decision-making body, the parliamentary board.

If that happens, it will confirm the wide perception about Modi playing a bigger role in the 2014 general election than has officially been mandated for the party’s chief ministers, sources suggested.

One BJP leader quipped about a wait for the “white smoke to emanate”, alluding to the signal the Vatican sends out once a papal conclave elects a new Pope.

That Rajnath will be sharing a platform with Modi again has gladdened the party ranks, who are toasting the “growing bonhomie” that was missing during Rajnath’s first tenure as BJP chief.

To Modi supporters, Rajnath’s acceptance of the invite to be the guest of honour at the Ahmedabad Sardar Patel Stadium signifies that Modi’s induction into the board is “almost certain”.

There is one vacancy on the board, caused by the death of veteran Bal Apte last year. While L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj are said to be backing Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s claims, most other leaders feel the berth should go to Modi. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh too will have its say.

“It (Modi’s induction) is pre-determined. Otherwise he would not have invited Rajnath and, if he had, the party president would have kept away,” a source said.

However, to a handful of sceptics used to the BJP’s whimsical ways — seen recently in the roller-coaster exit of Nitin Gadkari and Rajnath’s “election” in a matter of hours —- “anything can happen”.

“There are enough forces in the party working against Modi. Who can predict their ploys?” a source asked.

Modi was sworn in as chief minister at the same stadium. Party MPs and MLAs from Gujarat have been asked to mobilise crowds and pack the venue so that the show “overshadows” the similar events scheduled in other places.

Rajnath will hoist the party flag at the BJP headquarters in Delhi before leaving for Ahmedabad.

Asked about the apparent bonhomie between him and Modi, a source said: “Yes, it’s visible. But it’s too early to say how long it will last.”

In the first round of the battle for the Delhi sweepstakes, Modi has enlisted the backing of Rajnath as well as a senior Sangh official, Suresh Soni.

His competitors are not far behind. Chauhan, whom Advani had praised to the skies at the recent national council, today eulogised Advani as a leader without parallel.

In a tweet, Chauhan said: “Among Indian political leadership today nobody can match Advaniji in stature, integrity, nationalism and ideology based on good governance.”

This praise was preceded by another tweet that noted how Mulayam Singh Yadav, while commenting on the state of affairs in Uttar Pradesh, had referred to a maxim articulated by Advani.