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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Modi gets BJP crown, but Advani remains a thorn 09-14

Modi gets BJP crown, but Advani remains a thorn

PM candidate hints at development superseding Hindutva agenda in poll campaign
Narendra Modi

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would be the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s candidate for prime minister in 2014, party president Rajnath Singh announced here on Friday.

However, Modi’s elevation failed to get the blessings of party patriarch and working chairman of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), L K Advani, who stayed away from the parliamentary board meeting after getting ready to attend it. Instead, he wrote a letter to Singh, expressing his disappointment with the way the affairs of the party were conducted.

What a buoyant Modi said to reporters after his elevation suggested the Hindutva agenda would take a back seat in the elections and the BJP’s central campaign issue would be development. “In 2014, I hope the country will support us in tackling corruption, inflation, and support good governance and development.... I need the blessings of the people when the country is passing through traumatic times,” Modi said. There were no slogans of Jai Shri Ram at the venue.

Earlier, announcing Modi’s elevation, Singh said: “Gauging the national mood ... the parliamentary board has decided to appoint Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.” The practice of naming a prime ministerial candidate ahead of the elections had been followed since 1996, he said, in a reference that was obviously aimed at Advani supporters.

He also made a pointed reference to the NDA’s endorsement of Modi’s candidature. The NDA now comprises the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal. Playing down Advani’s absence, the party president said Modi would call on Advani to get the senior leader’s blessings. Later in the evening, Modi visited Advani’s residence for a brief meeting.

Advani had blamed Singh’s style of working for not attending Friday’s meeting. “In the afternoon... I spoke to you (Rajnath Singh) of my own anguish and about your style of working. I told you I will think whether I should discuss these issues with (parliamentary board) members or not. I have now decided that I will not attend today’s meeting.”

Modi had flown to the Capital from Gandhinagar this afternoon, presumably after he was certain that Advani’s objections to his elevation would be bypassed.

After a brief stopover at Gujarat Bhavan, he visited Singh. Modi confidant Amit Shah was also present at the meeting.

During the day, efforts were on to bring Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi on board. First, Nitin Gadkari met Singh and later held a meeting with Advani.

Swaraj, Advani and Joshi have in the past expressed reservations over Modi’s elevation, largely because of his style of functioning. However, by the evening, Swaraj and Joshi were seen congratulating Modi.

Advani had asked Singh to postpone the decision on Modi’s candidature till the end of the coming Assembly elections. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram are to go to polls later this year. Of these, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have BJP governments.

Modi’s elevation poses fresh challenges for the BJP. Indications are Modi would continue as both the PM candidate of the BJP and the campaign committee chairman. The party, which is already behind schedule as far as election work is concerned, has not appointed central observers to evaluate the candidature of ticket-seekers, allot electoral responsibility and work out an election schedule. Modi, as head of the campaign committee, has held only two meetings so far.

There was no clarity on whether the party would appoint a deputy chief minister in Gujarat if Modi moved to New Delhi. Further, a call would have to be taken on the issues on which the party will fight the upcoming elections: Will it be Brand Modi and governance, or corruption and cronyism?

The question of who would negotiate with political parties remained unanswered. As NDA’s working chairman, Advani was the one who would have negotiated with potential allies such as Haryana’s Om Prakash Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal; former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, who left the BJP to form the Karnataka Janata Paksh; Assam’s Asom Gana Parishad and the Panthers Party in Jammu. If, in June, Advani decides to resign from all party positions, BJP’s ally management could get a setback.

  • September 17, 1950: Born in Vadnagar, a small town in Mehsana district of North Gujarat. During his youth, gets involved with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad – the student arm of the RSS
  • 1987: Joins the Bharatiya Janata Party
  • 1988: Becomes general secretary of party’s Gujarat unit
  • 1988-1995: Becomes active in New Delhi politics; organised a march from Kanyakumari (the southernmost part of India) to Kashmir in the North.
  • 1995: Becomes BJP’s national secretary; gets the responsibility of handling five major states of North India
  • 2001: Becomes Gujarat CM, after BJP leadership removes incumbent CM Keshubhai Patel
  • 2002: Gets criticised for handling of the Gujarat riots; but subsequently wins consecutive Assembly elections in 2002, 2007 and 2012
  • 2012: The Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team on Gujarat riots gives Modi a clean chit; but amicus curiae in the case Raju Ramachandran says Modi can be prosecuted for promoting enmity among various groups
  • June 2013: Becomes chairman of general elections’ campaign committee of BJP
  • September 13, 2013: Modi named BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls

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