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Why Advani lost in Goa

delhi Updated: Jun 11, 2013 02:50 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times
LK Advani resignation

The monsoon-driven Arabian Sea that washed Goa’s Marriott Resort at Miramar beach — by now a much familiar spectacle thanks to TV news channels —looked tamer when compared to the mood at the rooms occupied by BJP leaders.

The saffron leaders, while putting up a not-so-convincing public show of swagger, actually spent much time splitting hair on the party’s most important decision — to appoint Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the head of the BJP’s election campaign committee.

Or so it seemed. For, it was, actually, more about LK Advani’s suggestion that, along with him, former party chief Nitin Gadkari should head a separate panel to oversee the assembly polls in Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

But BJP chief Rajnath Singh didn’t think it was a good idea — although he had no problems allocating ‘some work’ to Gadkari — as it would confuse the cadre. He chose Modi as the campaign head — without explicitly projecting him as the prime ministerial candidate.

But Gadkari — desperately avoiding any controversy lest it muddled his rehabilitation — kept quiet. He was convinced that some party insiders had allegedly conspired with the UPA to have his business ventures raided just before the renewal of his term as the party chief.

Rajnath’s formula, however, could enthuse the cadres without upsetting the NDA allies and, at the same time, leave Modi enough room to campaign as the top star. But the Advani camp wanted Modi’s appointment — and, of course, Gadkari’s — to be sorted out in Delhi after “further discussions” with the patriarch.

Rajnath put his foot down at this point, saying he had already had Advani’s “consent” for Modi’s appointment as the campaign head, which was a tactical comedown from the earlier talk of the Gujarat strongman being made the prime ministerial candidate.

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As the BJP leaders went into a huddle, Advani stayed away, sulking and citing ill-health. Rajnath stayed in touch, enquiring about his health and eventually advising him not to travel to Panaji.

By Sunday morning, Rajnath had the backing of the RSS and other BJP leaders and announced Modi’s appointment in the company of senior leaders, including Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Murli Monohar Joshi and BJP chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh and Manohar Parrikar.

But was it simply all about Rajnath’s refusal to accommodate Gadkari in a new panel? Even as some leaders went to placate Advani to get him to withdraw his resignation from all party posts, insiders wondered about the “real” reason for the new crisis.

It is no secret why Advani is displeased with the BJP. At 85, Advani is terribly upset that he has been pushed to the sidelines — first by the RSS and now by the BJP under Rajnath Singh.

Having to reconcile to the fact that the BJP is unwilling to back him again as the prime ministerial candidate and turning to Modi instead has rattled him — though he will never admit it.

So, Advani has finally used his most powerful weapon — public embarrassment — to get back at his own party.