At a time when there is an intense debate on the BJP's next prime ministerial candidate in the context of party patriarch LK Advani's Jan Chetna Yatra, BJP leader Uma Bharti virtually backed Advani for the top post.
Underlining that Advani "was the most capable person to lead the country in the present situation," Bharti said: "Corruption is a big challenge and anyone who has come to Kashi to raise the issue has not only managed to bring down governments but also gone on to lead the nation…. VP Singh did this, raised the Bofors issue and went on to become the prime minister." She added that though Advani was turning 84, his enthusiasm and energy were like a 12-year-old.
The statement came at a rally to mark Advani's flagging off of Kalraj Mishra's Yatra during his halt at the temple town, and just after the veteran had paid a visit to the Vishwanath temple.
Days back, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley had cautioned party leaders against creating controversy by deviating from the main theme of the Yatra: corruption.
Bharti's comment is likely to add fuel to the fire of controversy, weeks after Balbir Punj, and to a lesser extent Venkaiah Naidu, had endorsed Narendra Modi’s claim for the top post. Consequently, the BJP's campaign to put the UPA in the dock over corruption is getting transformed into a debate over who will lead the party in the next general polls.
Attacking the UPA government over various scams, Advani denied the Yatra was about his repackaging: “This Yatra has nothing to do with Advani or even the BJP.”The whole effort is being looked as Advani’s attempt to reclaim Opposition space from Anna Hazare and make himself the fulcrum of the anti-corruption sentiment.