Former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani has startled the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership with an apparent endorsement of Gujarat Chief Minister's claims to be the party's candidate for Prime Minister in the next general election.

In an article posted on his blog on Friday, Mr. Advani wrote: “Now, American lawmakers and the State Department are being primed for the return of the BJP to power in New Delhi, with [Mr.]Modi at the helm as Prime Minister, following what U.S. analysts say is a precipitous decline in the Congress party's fortunes due to a string of corruption scandals.”

For his assessment of United States official opinion, Mr. Advani has relied on a recent report of the Washington DC-based Congressional Research Service.

The report, like others regularly produced by the non-partisan CRS, is intended to provide U.S. legislators an overview of various shades of media and public opinion. The lead author of the report, K. Alan Kronstadt, said in a letter to The Hindu that the CRS reports “are not primary sources”, making clear the report is not intended to provide an independent evaluation of Mr. Modi's position.

Mr. Advani's September 8 announcement that he would undertake a country-wide yatra against corruption had been widely read as an effort to project himself as the party's Prime Ministerial candidate .

In turn, the Gujarat Chief Minister had said he would be undertaking a three-day fast for communal harmony. Mr Modi made his announcement after the Supreme Court issued orders asking a trial court to consider charges that he had been complicit in the communal violence that rocked the State in 2002, a decision the BJP proclaimed to be a victory.

The apparent jockeying between Mr. Modi and Mr. Advani has caused some bemusement among the BJP's leadership. “Shaadi to hui nahin, bache ki baat ho rahi hai (“even though the marriage is yet to take place, people are talking about the children that will be born of it”)”, one senior party leader told The Hindu, a sardonic reference to the fact that a leadership race seemed to have broken out even though elections were still distant. .