Mohan Bhagwat reportedly met L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj to convince them to endorse Mr. Modi’s candidature

Preparations by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to forge consensus within the Bharatiya Janata Party on naming Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate appear to have reached a crucial stage.

The RSS, it is learnt, wants the BJP to soon announce Mr. Modi’s candidature, with sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat trying to get sulking senior BJP leaders to agree to it.

According to sources, Mr. Bhagwat met party patriarch L.K. Advani and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj — who are opposed to naming of the party’s prime ministerial candidate at this juncture — in a bid to pave the way for a smooth anointment of Mr. Modi.

The meeting came ahead of a proposed two-day conclave between the RSS’s top brass and the BJP here on Sunday and Monday. The meet’s agenda is to take stock of a range of issues, including the party’s choice for Prime Minister, ahead of the upcoming election to five State assemblies in the next eight to ten weeks. The RSS has been actively engaged in mobilising all its frontal organisations to ensure greater coordination with the BJP as it gets into election mode.

That RSS has been relentless in trying to get BJP leaders to endorse Mr. Modi’s candidature is evident from the fact that last weekend the Sangh’s general secretary Suresh (Bhaiyaji) Joshiheld discussions with leaders on the subject.

The case of the RSS is that a groundswell of support for the Gujarat Chief Minister in the BJP rank and file necessities an early announcement, which will energise cadres ahead of crucial elections. Mr. Modi’s anointment was considered a foregone conclusion after he was named the chief of the party’s national election committee at the Goa National Executive in June. However, the revolt by Mr. Advani, even before the ink had dried on the edict, came as bolt out of the blue for the Sangh. This gave hope to other prime ministerial aspirants in the party. Mr. Advani relented on appeal from Mr. Bhagwat and rescinded his resignation, but did not give up his resistance.

Those opposed to the idea have been arguing for postponement of the decision till the State assembly elections are over. Barring Mizoram, the BJP has high stakes in the other four States — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Delhi. The party is in power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and retaining power there due to the personal charisma of Chief Ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh.

The BJP hopes to wrest Rajasthan away from the Congress, cashing on the ‘anti-incumbency’ factor both at the State and the Centre, as well as the popularity of its Chief ministerial candidate Vasundara Raje.

Those opposed to Mr. Modi’s candidature believe that naming him at this juncture would enable him take credit for the party’s victory in the State elections, thereby presenting a picture disproportionate to his appeal beyond Gujarat.

In recent weeks, the pro-Modi camp has been vigorously advocating the need for an early announcement of the party’s prime ministerial candidate. Last week, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said the sooner the party announced its candidate, the better it would be. “We should not get a hit-wicket. That is a scenario where nobody bowls you out, but you give your own wicket. That is the only way we are going to lose this election,” he told delegates at a party conclave.

Rajnath defends Modi

Meanwhile, BJP chief Rajnath Singh came to Mr. Modi’s defence in the light of the D.G. Vanzara letter. “Narendra Modi is a very popular CM and he is being attacked ... these attacks have increased after he was chosen election campaign committee chief and we fear more such attacks in the future,” Mr. Singh said. In a message that seemed to be for his party, he said: “We are standing strong and need to be conscious of this.”

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