The marginalisation of BJP patriarch L.K. Advani appeared complete on Thursday with the party replacing him with Amit Shah as its candidate for the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat.
The BJP announced its first list of 184 candidates across 20 states for the April-May general election, with the highlight being the replacement of Advani, 91, with party president Shah, now being increasingly seen as Narendra Modi’s eventual successor.
“Our glorious Prime Minister Narendra Modi will contest the election from Varanasi and our party president Amit Shah will contest from Gandhinagar,” health minister J.P. Nadda said while announcing the names of the nominees. The announcement reiterated the hold of the Modi-Shah duopoly on the party.
Advani, a former BJP president who is credited with steering the party to the political centre stage from the margins, has represented the bastion of Gandhinagar for six terms. He first won the seat in 1991. In 1996, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee represented the constituency, but since 1998 Advani had had an uninterrupted run.
Despite his advanced age, Advani is known to be of sound health. Sources said he was ready to contest again. Advani and some other BJP veterans have found themselves sidelined in the party under Modi and Shah, pensioned off to an old-age home called “Margdarshak Mandal” whose guidance is not known to have been sought ever.
The fielding of Shah in the Lok Sabha elections, on the other hand, is an indicator of the future. Shah, essentially a backroom strategist, was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat in 2017. His decision to contest the Lok Sabha polls suggests a keenness to get the endorsement of being directly elected by the people.
While Shah is undoubtedly the most powerful BJP leader after Modi, the perception that he could eventually succeed Modi will only strengthen after Thursday. Shah is 54 years old, while Modi is 68.
Many in the BJP predicted that Shah would be a powerful minister if Modi returned to power. “He could be the home minister,” a BJP leader said. Rajnath Singh is the current home minister and the official No. 2 in the government.
The unseating of Advani from his backyard is being viewed as an indicator of the possible fate of some of the other veterans, including Murli Manohar Joshi, who represents Kanpur. The candidate for Kanpur was not announced on Thursday. At least 21 sitting MPs have not found place on Thursday’s list.
Rajnath has been re-nominated from Lucknow and Nitin Gadkari from Nagpur. Smriti Irani has been renominated from Amethi, the pocket borough of Rahul Gandhi.