Signalling a truce, veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani on Monday endorsed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Speaking at a public rally in Raipur, Mr. Advani hailed the Gujarat government’s feat of bringing 24-hour power supply to all villages in the State. If the faith reposed in Mr. Modi “fructifies,” the senior BJP leader said, good governance provided by BJP governments could be replicated across the country..
Mr. Modi, however, was not the only BJP Chief Minister Mr. Advani had good words for. He also extolled the work done by Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Chief Ministers, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh.
Putting their performance in context, he said that while Gujarat was already a developed State, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were backward.
At the National Council meeting in March, he had praised Mr. Chouhan even in the face of persistent slogans in favour of Mr. Modi and had compared Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj to the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
As the JD(U) walked out of the NDA, ending its 17-year-old electoral partnership with the BJP, Mr. Modi was left with little scope for manoeuvrability in the party and the RSS.
However, Mr. Advani found it difficult to continue with his resistance once the other Modi naysayers — Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi — deserted ranks. Left completely isolated, the veteran had no choice but to assent to the Gujarat Chief Minister’s candidature..
At the Raipur rally, Mr. Advani, in his first public appearance since Mr. Modi’s anointment dedicated the 500MW Hasdeo Thermal Power (Expansion) Project and said: “… If any one has done this work [electrification in rural areas] first, it is my friend Narendra Modi.”
Mr. Modi, he further said in his 20-minute speech, was the “first [Chief Minister] to take a resolution that electricity should reach all the villages.”
Later talking to the reporters, he said: “The party move to give him [Mr. Modi] the responsibility of leading the country, if that fructifies… then we will repeat all the good work that we have done in the BJP-ruled States, across the country.”
Also appreciating the Chhattisgarh government’s “good work,” he said the State was following the Gujarat model of rural electrification and “has managed to reach out to the people.” “We worked not for mere vote bank politics, but honestly for the people [when the new State was formed].” The veteran leader also underscored the “super performance” of the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, a known loyalist of his.
“Shivraj Singh Chouhan vowed to take electricity to every village. Three districts were left … he said, he would complete the work at one go. He did … thus keeping his word.”
The BJP leaders in Chhattisgarh are of the opinion that Mr. Singh convinced Mr. Advani to call a truce and approve of Mr. Modi’s candidature. “The Chief Minister told us not to travel in the chartered flight from Raipur to north Chhattisgarh [to participate in the programme] with him and Mr. Advani. Perhaps this has helped the Chief Minister to convince Mr. Advani to select Chhattisgarh as the venue to deliver a pro-Modi message, which may finally bring the warring camps together,” said a senior BJP leader close to both Mr. Advani and Mr. Singh.