Senior BJP leader L K Advani is "highly unlikely" to change his decision not to be Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and a new leader would be chosen by consensus if he refuses, a party spokesman said on Sunday. "We are making all efforts to convince him but he has refused to relent and is standing firm on his decision. It is highly unlikely that he will change his stand," BJP spokesman Balbir Punj told PTI.
The party has authorised BJP President Rajnath Singh to to talk to Advani on the issue. Singh is expected to meet him shortly.
After the BJP's poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls, Advani had told the party's Parliamentary Board yesterday that he does not want to continue as the Leader of the Opposition and that the party should choose another person for the post.
Punj said, "I don't think we can persuade Advani because he is a man with a very firm mind and once he has made up his mind that he doesn't want to continue as the Leader of the Opposition, efforts to persuade him may not work."
He said the BJP has "many stalwarts", who were earlier in the Rajya Sabha, and that any of them can be the Leader of the Opposition.
Names of senior party leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Jaswant Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi are doing the rounds for the post, party sources said.
Punj said it was a difficult decision to accept since the party has worked under Advani's leadership for more than 50 years. "To imagine the BJP in which Mr Advani is not in a pro-active role is very difficult for ordinary BJP 'karyakarta' (worker). But I think Mr Advani has made up his mind and I don't think he is going to relent from that," the BJP spokesman said.
Noting that party leaders, including the chief ministers, have been requesting him to continue as the Leader of the Opposition, he said, "We want Mr Advani to be there to guide us."
On the issue of who may replace Advani in the post, Punj said, "The BJP this time is very rich in Lok Sabha because many of the stalwarts who were earlier in Rajya Sabha have won handsomely and are going to be in Lok Sabha. "We will be able to present a vibrant and robust Opposition in Lok Sabha. Any of the these persons can be the Leader of the Opposition," he said.
Punj said, "Everybody would have their preferences but the party will go by consensus and we should wait for that," he said, maintaining that acceptability of such a person within the Parliamentary Party as also experience in parliamentary procedure would count.
"Jaswant Singh (Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha) is moving from Rajya Sabha to Lok Sabha (as he has won from the Darjeeling seat in West Bengal)...So there is a vacancy is Rajya Sabha. All these aspects will be taken care of while picking up the suitable person," he added.