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How Advani camp’s last hope of stalling Modi’s anointment fizzled out

Author: TNN
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 15, 2013
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/How-Advani-camps-last-hope-of-stalling-Modis-anointment-fizzled-out/articleshow/22593872.cms

As his meeting with L K Advani ended on Friday afternoon, BJP president Rajnath Singh quietly told the veteran leader that the decision to name Narendra Modi as the party's prime ministerial candidate could not be put off.

 "Ab baat jahan pahunch gayi hai, wahan se wapas jaana sambhav nahin hai" (the matter has now reached a point from which there can be no going back), Rajnath told the sulking stalwart on Friday afternoon, according to BJP sources.

The blunt "no" — although couched in polite and deferential Hindi — snuffed out Advani camp's last hope that fear of the veteran's public annoyance would lead the BJP to back off from its plan to declare Modi its prime ministerial choice for 2014.

 Rajnath had reached Advani's sprawling Prithviraj Road bungalow as part of a last-ditch effort to get the former deputy PM relent on his opposition to Modi's projection as PM candidate. Significantly, the talks were held against the backdrop of the Advani camp's assessment that RSS and BJP may agree to defer the decision in exchange of an assurance that the former deputy PM would support Gujarat CM's candidature after state polls scheduled for October-November.

 The assessment — believed to be the result of the extravagantly optimistic interpretation of a few "peace makers" — came as a shocker to BJP and RSS leadership who lost no time to disabuse the intermediaries of the viability of the proposal.

 RSS number 2 Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi is learnt to have reacted to the truce proposal by citing Advani's oft-quoted view that the RSS has no business getting into the micro-management of BJP affairs. Rajnath also dismissed the idea. But while the intermediaries swiftly aborted their mediation bid, the veteran did not give up the hope yet, perhaps also because the mediators could not marshal the courage to admit to their estimates had gone wrong.

 That Rajnath's refusal to back down surprised Advani is, according to sources, borne out by his letter where he criticized the BJP chief.

 Advani seemed to have made another miscalculation. He mistakenly believed that former party president Nitin Gadkari and senior leader Ananth Kumar would support him at the meeting of the parliamentary board. The addition of Gadkari and Ananth Kumar to Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi and Advani himself would have taken the number of the pro-deferment faction to almost half of the 11-member parliamentary board, excluding the ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

 A near-vertical split would have made it difficult for the BJP leadership to press ahead with its plan for an early decision on Modi. This assessment may have led Advani to briefly consider attending the meeting of the parliamentary board.

 This was not to be. Gadkari had indeed turned sympathetic to Advani: a twist which is cited to emphasize the acuity of the saying that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics. But Advani was naive to believe Gadkari would defy the RSS. The Nagpur-based leader, who owes his prominence on the national scale to RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat, takes pride in his "true swayamsewak" credentials.

 Ananth Kumar had appeared openly aligned with Advani and Swaraj till recently. But he had since eased himself into the role of a "peacemaker" with a dexterity that remains the subject of banter in the party: a change which escaped the attention of Advani's tacticians.

In the event, Joshi also decided to drop the ante while Swaraj limited herself to asserting her right to express her point of view while stressing that she would not cross the line that had been drawn.

 Her argument about timing not being ripe for the crucial announcement was countered by Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Thawarchand Gehlot. Jaitley pointed to the groundswell for Modi among ranks, while Venkaiah said that the party was losing time. Gehlot stressed that the decision, as communicated by Rajnath, should be followed by everybody.

 The troika actually was acting out of a script which the RSS and BJP leadership had prepared, anticipating that the tenacious resistance to Modi will not wilt in the face of show of numbers.

 The choreography was also evident from the concerted manner in which all the spokespersons emphasized their respect for Advani and recalled his role in building the party into the force while asserting the supremacy of the majority view.

 On Saturday, many leaders called on Advani. But the show of respect for the elderly could not mask the fact that his plan had gone horribly wrong and that the patriarch could be headed for isolation.

Even as the party leaders professed their respect for the Advani, there was apprehension of what the former deputy PM could post on his blog — a platform that he had earlier used to express his disappointment with the style of functioning of BJP leadership — on Sunday.
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