NEW DELHI: It was apparently a complex set of factors that led to the BJP announcing its prime ministerial candidate — L.K. Advani — now when a Lok Sabha election is not likely. The first and foremost factor is the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ill-health.
BJP leaders agree — privately — that whether Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wins or loses the Assembly election, there would be consequences for the central leadership which the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh wanted to avoid.
A Modi win would mean the Gujarat leader claiming himself to be the most popular BJP leader, after Mr. Vajpayee, who is now too ill to think of heading yet another government at the Centre. Reports from Gujarat suggested thin attendance at Mr. Advani’s meetings. Some party leaders blamed Mr. Modi, saying he might have ensured small crowds so that his own popularity shone in comparison.
The RSS, which is not working for Mr. Modi’s victory, wants to convey to him that he should not have any prime ministerial ambition and must learn to work under the party and Sangh discipline, a BJP insider, who was privy to the decision-making process in the party, told The Hindu.
The BJP is also aware that if the Congress wins the Gujarat election, it may not be averse to going for a mid-term election to the Lok Sabha. The RSS and the BJP wanted to settle the leadership question before any such thing happened.
One authoritative BJP source told The Hindu that an understanding was arrived at among the Sangh leadership, Mr. Vajpayee, Mr. Advani and party president Rajnath Singh that this announcement should end the not-so-secret tussle between Mr. Advani and Mr. Singh.
“Mr. Advani has been told that henceforth he must cooperate fully with Mr. Rajnath Singh.”
Another factor is that the BJP is worried about its electoral prospects in Gujarat. Now that the decision in favour of Mr. Advani’s leadership has been taken, the poll-eve announcement would, it is hoped, improve the party’s prospects because he represents Gandhinagar in the Lok Sabha.
The Sangh is also interested in creating a dual control system in the party — governmental leadership with one person and the party machine firmly in the hands of a trusted Sangh worker — Mr. Singh.
For Mr. Advani, the time between now and the Lok Sabha election is also a sort of “test.”
A party source said the Sangh has clearly conveyed to him that it expects him to tow the RSS line — no ‘Jinnah is secular’-type deviation that led to his fall from RSS grace, after which he was forced to relinquish presidentship.