If Day 2 of the BJP’s national conclave was all about Narendra Modi, there were subtle attempts to pitch for collective leadership on Sunday, the concluding day.
A day after chief Rajnath Singh hailed Modi as the “most popular” of the BJP's chief ministers, the saffron party's patriarch LK Advani closed the proceedings hailing the party's “galaxy” of leadership.
Advani praised Gujarat CM Modi but not before putting in good words, and in good measure, for Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The highest praise, however, was reserved for Sushma Swaraj, another prime ministerial hopeful. Advani, whose relationship with Modi can at best be described as uneasy, bracketed her with former PM AB Vajpayee as the leaders who gave him a “complex” with their oration.
“What was the need to make me close the session when Sushma Swaraj had spoken?” said Advani, who is known to harbour ambitions for the top job.
It is generally held in the BJP that Modi is the best speaker. Advani left a lot for interpretation when he said Swaraj “began her speech where Modi had ended”.
The NDA needed to expand to return to power and for that it would have to take the minorities along, he said. “The BJP must take the initiative… by including a charter of commitments to the minorities in its agenda for governance and development.”
Modi's alleged failure to check the 2002 riots - the worst communal violence in the state - is seen as an impediment to his acceptance as a national leader Advani's “secular” pitch was read as less than encouraging for Modi's prospects, particularly as ally Janata Dal (U) is opposed to him being named the PM candidate.
However, it was Chouhan who set the tone for the day, showcasing his achievements almost competitively: “Gujarat is doing well but other BJP states are also doing well.” “No state in India except MP has achieved 18.9 % agricultural growth,” the CM said.