L K Advani went on a roadshow on an open jeep in Gandhinagar, stressing he is ready to step into any role the party wants for him after the elections, and promoting Narendra Modi as prime minister after having once opposed that projection.
For a leader of Advani’s stature, the response to his bike rally was light, the crowds thin, and their chants largely about Modi. The state BJP leadership did throw its weight behind Advani, but hardly 40 bikes arrived. Modi aide Anandi Patel by his side, Advani tried to make it clear that he has no differences with Modi .
“The BJP will form the government under the leadership of Narendra Modi,” said the five-time Gandhinagar MP. “I will take any role the party would like me to after the elections.” This came a day after Rajnath Singh’s statement that the party will decide a role for Advani after the elections.
Harin Pathak, sulking Ahmedabad East MP since replaced as candidate, too was with him, an Advani loyalist campaigning for the first time in Gujarat this elecion. So were BJP vice president Kaushik Patel and senior leader Bharat Pandya.
The supporters and the arrangements indicated that even in Gandhinagar, which Advani has represented since 1991, what counts is not so much the candidate as the PM candidate. “Modi aane wala” and other songs blared from stereos on a four-wheeler that was part of the cavalcade led by bikers. On Advani’s jeep to other vehicles, the photos and posters were of Modi. The few BJP bikers wore “Modi For PM” caps.
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It was the first time since filing his nomination on April 9 that Advani was in his constituency. He began the campaign from Bavla, which is part of Sanand, home to the Tata Motors Nano factory that helped Modi change his image from Hindu hardliner to industry-friendly CM.
But Sanand and Kalol, another industrial belt, are weak pockets for the BJP in Gandhinagar constituency and comprise mostly Thakurs and Patels among over 11 lakh voters.
Advani’s appearance comes after he had protested the denial of the ticket from Bhopal. He tried to evoke his historical connection with Gujarat. “We used to live in Karachi. After Partition, we shifted to Gandhidham in Kutch. My Gujarat connection is old and strong,” Advani told workers, repeating what he had said at two workers’ meetings on April 9. In the same breath, he made it clear that given his national responsibilities he won’t be campaigning much here and his family will take over. “I have to campaign in other parts of India. But my son and daughter will be here’’.
Advani has not campaigned anywhere else in Gujarat yet.
Voters watching the cars pass appeared little interested in history. “We now want to hear from him what he can do for the constituency,” said Dhiru Patel, who runs a small store.
“In our town, the candidate does not matter. It is the party that counts. Advani has been our MP for so many years, but we have hardly seen him here,” said Jitu Mehta.
After a two-km long roadshow, Advani was scheduled to visit Kalol and Gandhinagar North for the inauguration of party offices. “I will be back the day after tomorrow.” he said.