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Who is BJP candidate for PM? Hunt still on

delhi Updated: Sep 22, 2011 10:16 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times
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Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader LK Advani's remarks that he was happy to be with the party and was not a contender for the Prime Minister's position, is being seen as a decision forced on him by the RSS.

The RSS was miffed after he announced his yatra unilaterally, sparking off speculation about his desire to be in the PM race once again.

Advani had been rejected by the people in 2009 when the number of BJP seats in Lok Sabha came down from 138 to 116 and those of the Congress rose from 145 to 206.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, whom Advani met in Nagpur, made it clear to him that the Sangh would support his proposed yatra only if he made a declaration of not being in the list of PM probables in the next round of elections, which many political pundits believe could be next year instead of 2014, given the fragile state of the UPA in general and the Congress in particular.

The uncertain political climate has led to increased political activity by those attempting to position themselves for the stellar role during elections. Gujarat CM Narendra Modi's three-day fast has not gone down too well with many BJP leaders. But it has demonstrated that he was willing to come on the national centre stage.

If one goes by the convention of the Westminister model of Parliamentary democracy, Sushma Swaraj, the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, should be the automatic choice in the event of the NDA forming the next government.

In Gandhi Nagar on Monday, she did try to stake her claim by playing down Modi's political ambitions, portraying him more as a successful leader of a state rather than a national figure.

But Modi's followers are already seeing him as a player for the big ticket, notwithstanding the remarks by some allies like the JD(U).

Modi's role on the central stage is also seen as an impediment to the political ambitions of both Advani and Arun Jaitley, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha. As of now both are dependent on the Gujarat CM for their political survival.

Advani is the Lok Sabha MP from Gandhi Nagar and Jaitley, a Rajya Sabha MP from the state. Jaitley's term ends next year and Modi will play a major role in getting it renewed.

If one sees things purely through the prism of the BJP, the leadership tussle has been reduced to the one between Modi and Sushma - Modi being the hard Hindutva face and Sushma, the moderate figure. The RSS can upset this plan by bringing in a leader of its choice at the last moment.

However, even that will not end speculation about Nitish Kumar being pitched as the combined candidate of the NDA, given his secular credentials and wider acceptance. But it is not going to be easy for either the BJP or the NDA to convince hardcore Modi supporters to back off. And one can never say about Advani, who may still have a trick or two up his sleeve.