LK Advani’s decision to quit as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha after the BJP’s drubbing has triggered bickering within the party.
Among the contenders are victorious Lok Sabha contestants Sushma Swaraj (56), MM Joshi (75), Jaswant Singh (71) and Rajnath Singh (57).
Every contender perceives it as a precursor to being the BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate.
Those close to Advani (81) are rooting either for his continuation or the anointment of Swaraj, the youngest.
But Joshi and Jaswant, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, have also thrown their hats in the ring.
Rajnath’s tenure as BJP president ends in January next year.
If he doesn’t make it as the opposition’s voice in the Lok Sabha, Singh would like another term as party chief.
Joshi counts on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — the party’s ideological parent body, formed in 1925 — to push his case.
Jaswant, no darling of the Sangh, thinks his experience of 12 years in the Upper House, should help him. Besides, Swaraj was his deputy there. Also he has contested from Darjeeling at Advani’s behest and won.
With speculation rife that Advani could still get a role — maybe as NDA chairman in place of the ailing A.B. Vajpayee — Joshi welcomed Advani’s decision to quit the post. He also indicated his willingness to take up the job.
“Advaniji is the most important and senior-most leader. He takes decisions after due consideration. He is setting a good example,” Joshi told reporters.
“As the party did not come to power, he wants to take responsibility (for defeat) and step down... This should not be looked from the negative perspective.”
On his own role, Joshi said: “I am not in any race. If given any responsibility by the party, I do not shy away. I am a humble BJP worker and will do as my party bids.”
Swaraj said the thought of replacing Advani was painful. “It is not possible for me to think of becoming the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha in the presence of L.K. Advani in the house. I just can’t think of it.”
Those who want Advani to do a rethink on quitting could voice their opinion in a special NDA meet convened on the subject on Monday.