This is really a sunshine time for the BJP. Led by a strong leader, it looks like it is within striking distance of the throne in Delhi, if all goes well. But, into each political life some rain must fall. And the storm has come in the form of the creator of the BJP as it is today, party patriarch LK Advani. He has earlier set the dovecotes aflutter by refusing to attend the BJP Goa meet, sending a letter instead signalling his displeasure at the way things were being conducted. He then moved heaven and earth to stop the party from declaring Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate, something he failed to achieve. But not before some damage had been done.
Now, as campaigning gets into full swing, Mr Advani has been throwing tantrums about where he should stand from. He was apparently unhappy with any plan the party came up with, a clear vote of no confidence in Mr Modi. He refused to attend the party meet to decide on tickets, a violation of the discipline he was once so famous for. The choice of seat was then left to him and he has opted for Gandhinagar. Senior leader Jaswant Singh is also unhappy with the ticket distribution.
The public display of differences about the tickets is indicative of a deeper malaise, that of Mr Advani refusing to concede that a new leadership has come into the party. It is possible that he feels that he ought to be given far more importance keeping in mind his role in the creation of the modern BJP. But given that he is a disciplined soldier of the party and has always been, it is inappropriate for him to display his unhappiness so publicly.
Placating Mr Advani seems to have become something of a full-time job for many senior BJP leaders who are fighting the polls this time. Mr Advani has to understand that the country’s voters want to listen to Mr Modi and that they are eager for change. The interest in the BJP today is not due to Mr Advani but because of Mr Modi, whatever differences people may have with him.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the party’s best chance lies in presenting a unified front behind Mr Modi’s leadership. Mr Advani’s actions suggest that he would like a shot at the prime ministership, having had to cede ground to AB Vajpayee earlier. But politics is all about the possible. And as things stand, it looks impossible that the BJP will change horses in midstream. Now really is the time for all good men to the come to the aid of the party.