Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress and UPA leaders mocked the decision of the BJP parliamentary party to project LK Advani as the prime ministerial candidate. However, allies of the BJP, who make up the NDA, welcomed his choice.
Speaking in Gujarat, Singh ridiculed the BJP, saying the decision to anoint Advani was taken because its leadership was “nervous” and feared a “threat” from Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
“The central leadership of the BJP is nervous. They want to fill the post before the Gujarat election results are out,” he said at two press conferences in the state.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad said “the post of Prime Minister is not in his (Advani’s) horoscope” while LJP leader and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said, “It is the BJP’s internal matter.”
BJP leaders led by Venkaiah Naidu hit back at the PM, saying his remarks reflected “frustration” and “disappointment” as he was not in a position to “command or give direction” to his government. They added that the PM had virtually admitted that Modi is winning in Gujarat.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Singh was caught in a web of fantasy and reality.
Naidu said: “It was a panic reaction as the Congress does not have a leader to equal Advani in stature. And as far as Modi
is concerned, everyone has decided on Modi’s leadership in Gujarat. Gujarat is his area.”
BJP president Rajnath Singh said: “The party decided to project Advaniji as its next prime minister after consulting everybody, including Vajpayee and NDA allies.” He said Vajpayee would play the role of mukhiya (head of the family).
AICC spokesperson Abhhishek saw Advani’s move as an attempt to “preempt’’ not only Modi but many others in the BJP, including BJP chief Rajnath Singh or even former PM Vajpayee. “He has been PM-in-waiting and still has a long wait ahead,” he said.
BJP allies — the JD(U), the Akali Dal and the Biju Janata Dal — have backed Advani for prime minister.
“We have no objection. It is not a problem for us,” Janata Dal (United) President Sharad Yadav said, adding “His (Advani’s) choice is but natural. His image as a Hindutva hardliner is not a factor and so long as the NDA is bound by the national agenda of governance, there is no problem.”
Bihar Chief Minister and JD-U leader Nitish Kumar said, “Being the second-tallest leader after Vajpayee who is keeping indifferent health, Advani is the natural choice.”
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal hailed the BJP’s decision, describing Advani as an able, highly competent administrator and a far-sighted leader.
CPI leader D Raja said the decision was an act of desperation, aimed at hoodwinking people in Gujarat.