Ironical for Advani to promote Gadkari as poll campaign head as the party veteran had earlier called for his ouster after allegations of business irregularities

Ahead of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s two-day national executive meet over the weekend, veteran leader L.K. Advani appears to be leaving no stone unturned to block the chances of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi being named as the head of the party election campaign committee for the coming Assembly elections in five States.

His efforts to rope in the former party president, Nitin Gadkari, as an ally in the power game appear to have come to nought. Last week, Mr. Advani sought to persuade party president Rajnath Singh that Mr. Gadkari was the best choice to head the campaign committee.

However, much to Mr. Advani’s dismay, Mr. Gadkari is believed to have said “no, thank you” on the plea that he cannot take up such an onerous responsibility as he is gearing up to fight his first-ever election to the Lok Sabha from Nagpur.

According to party insiders, Mr. Gadkari wanted to stay away from the power game, which is only expected to intensify as 2014 general election approaches.

Praise for Chouhan

Last week, Mr. Advani bowled a googly, lauding Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He suggested that Mr. Chouhan was several notches above Mr. Modi when it came to developmental economics as he had succeeded in turning a very backward State into a success story in contrast to the Gujarat Chief Minister, who had taken over the reins of a State which was already developed.

The party leadership was forced to get into damage control mode. After informal consultations, several leaders including Mr. Rajnath Singh sought to play down Mr. Advani’s comments by claiming that they were “misinterpreted”.

Further, the party president went to the extent of saying that Mr. Modi is the “most popular” leader in the country.

He reiterated the party’s stated position that the parliamentary board would decide at the appropriate time who would be the party’s face in the next general election.

Though it is common knowledge that Mr. Advani has not given up his prime ministerial aspirations, what has come as a surprise to observers within and outside the BJP is the brusque way in which he is going about to push Mr. Modi out of the race.

Furthermore, it is an irony in itself for Mr. Advani to bat for Mr. Gadkari as he was in the forefront of the campaign against giving Mr. Gadkari a second term in the wake of allegations of business irregularities.

Mr. Advani knows that Mr. Modi would be just a step away from becoming the prime ministerial face of the party if he was entrusted with election management committee in the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi polls in November.

It is true the party has big stakes in these States and it also has good chances of winning in at least three. If Mr. Modi is given charge of the election campaign and the party pulls through in these States, his position would be further strengthened.

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