Aiming to tap what it perceives is a groundswell of support for Narendra Modi,the Bharatiya Janata Party Friday formally announced that the Gujarat chief minister is the partys prime ministerial candidate for the next Lok Sabha elections.
The announcement marked a significant powershift in the 32-year-old party as it did not have the backing of L K Advani,a party veteran and one of its founders. Advani was opposed to Modi being named as the partys PM candidate ahead of the assembly elections in Chhattisgarh,Madhya Pradesh,Rajasthan and Delhi,due later this year.
The decision to project Modi was taken at a meeting of the partys parliamentary board which Advani skipped as a mark of protest. And key leaders at that meeting who decided to brush aside the patriarchs reservations belonged to the second generation of the party that had been nurtured by Advani Narendra Modi,Rajnath Singh,Sushma Swaraj,Arun Jaitley,Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar.
It was also the second time in three months that Advani found himself fighting a losing battle,indicating which way the wind in the party was blowing.
The BJP had snubbed Advani on June 9 too when party president Rajnath Singh announced Modi as the partys 2014 poll campaign panel chief at the national executive meeting in Goa. Advani had boycotted the meeting in a bid to stall the move. However,the same second generation leaders had agreed to the decision and pushed it through.
On Friday,Advani was also absent from the press conference at which Rajnath Singh announced the decision of the parliamentary board. Singh said the decision had the support of both the other NDA parties – Akali Dal and Shiv Sena – but refused to field questions regarding Advanis absence.
Advani himself spoke,through a brief letter to Singh,in words critical of the party chief and without making a reference to Modi.
I told you about my anguish and disappointment with your working style this afternoon when you came to tell me about the meeting of parliamentary board today, he wrote in Hindi. I had told you that I will consider whether I should attend the meeting and express my views before all the members. I have decided that it would be appropriate for me not to attend the meeting.
Singh,however,sought to convey that he was taking this criticism in his stride.
Advani is my guardian and mentor. He has every right to guide me and scold me. I have very high regard for him. I can never forget his contribution to the party. My respect for him will never diminish, Singh told The Indian Express when asked about Advanis letter.
Modi,in his brief remarks,thanked the BJP leadership and NDA leaders and described it as a very big responsibility. He said he would leave no stone unturned to live up to the partys expectations.
I seek the blessings of countrymen. I hope they will support the battle against corruption and price rise in favour of suraj and development, Modi said. He added that he hoped workers of the party built by Vajpayee and Advani will work hard to succeed.
Later,Modi drove to the residences of Vajpayee and Advani to seek their blessings.
While leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha,Sushma Swaraj,and former party president Murli Manohar Joshi were also on the same side as Advani,they decided not to defy the party decision and attended the parliamentary board meeting and were also present on the stage to greet Modi.
Advani is 86,Sushma is not even 66. Advani has nothing to lose,Swaraj has something to gain only by falling in line, a BJP source said referring to the shift in Swarajs position.
But Advanis criticism of Rajnath Singh Friday indicates that while the veteran leader could spare Modi,the BJP president would have to face more challenges before the transition is considered complete. Politics has no end. Never say never in politics, the source said.