BJP leader Arun Jaitley on Sunday said Narendra Modi is the “best possible card” for the party in the Lok Sabha elections and dismissed media speculation that L.K. Advani was opposed to his elevation.
“It is not only an overwhelming consensus among the leaders but there is a near unanimous view among the cadres that you have to give a special responsibility to a person who is perceived as highly popular and inspirational leader as far as cadres are concerned.
“A party has to play its best possible card in the elections and that is what the party president has done,” he said reacting to Mr. Modi’s appointment as Chairman of the BJP Campaign Committee for the Lok Sabha polls.
Asked whether there were no divisions in the party on the issue and whether Mr. Advani had suggested setting up of another Committee, Mr. Jaitley said “I am not aware of any such view (of Advani). The entire generation of leaders at present active in the party, not one of them has done a fraction of services that Advani had lent to the party.”
He said Mr. Advani’s views are always heard in rapt attention regardless of what he says by leaders of the party. “He has no such position as has been widely perceived by the media,” Mr. Jaitley said.
Dismissing speculation that Mr Advani had kept away from meeting because of his opposition to Mr. Modi, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said that the party veteran stayed away because he was not in the best of health in the last few days and the media should accept it graciously.
Asked whether Mr. Modi has been announced the Prime Ministerial candidate, he said that any further will be taken at the right time.
Mr. Jaitley said with Sunday’s decision it will be now a fight between Congress and BJP in which Congress is poorly placed. “We have intensified the campaign against the Congress party,” he said.
Meanwhile, senior leader Yashwant Sinha, who kept away from Goa deliberations, did not shed any light on whether he welcomed the anointment of Mr. Modi or whether he was with Mr. Advani.
In a statement, he said he was one of the earliest in the BJP to speak in favour of Mr. Modi. The reason was that the cadres wanted it, the people wanted it.
“He has no match in the Congress party or elsewhere.
But, in India, our culture, our traditions and our values teach us to have and show the highest respect and regard for our elders.”
Mr. Sinha said it was this feeling in his mind, it was this tradition in the society which prompted him to tell the media that if Mr. Advani made himself available, if the Parliamentary Board decided in his favour and if the NDA was on board, then the discussion on the leadership should end.
This, he said, was construed by a section of the media to mean that he had changed his position and that instead of Mr. Modi, he was backing Mr. Advani.
“In the last three days, I have been shown as being anti-Modi and pro-Advani. The fact of the matter is that I have neither met nor spoken to Mr. Advani since the parliament session ended. It is a fact that I did not go to Goa but the reasons are not political. They are personal and I am entitled to my privacy,” the MP from Jharkhand said.
Mr. Sinha said Mr. Advani was not only the senior-most but also the most respected leader of the party.
“I have always had the highest respect for him. What happened in front of his residence yesterday is utterly condemnable. Advani is fully entitled to his views, fully entitled to his respect and his dignity. I shall be the first to protest against any attempt by anyone to the contrary,” he said.
Seeking to blame the media, the senior leader the BJP has always suffered from one weakness. It was too sensitive to the views in the media and it often allowed the media to force it into the quicksand of an imagined clash of personalities thereby completely giving a go-by to the issues of the day.
“Politics must be based on issues, not on personalities specially today when we have so many issues to raise against the government of the day. The media has ensured that issues get submerged in the so-called clash of personalities in the BJP.
“Is the media and the BJP allowing themselves to become a victim of a grand conspiracy,” he said.