BJP President Rajnath Singh's camp on Monday did not react to senior party leader LK Advani's television interview in which he claimed he was the party's prime ministerial candidate and said that Rajnath's future would be decided by the party.
But the issue came up at a lunch meeting Rajnath had with senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Madan Das Devi.
Sources close to Rajnath said that he was not happy that a new controversy had surfaced when a mega BJP conclave was to be held in his home city of Lucknow later this month, which will formally endorse his election as the BJP president.
On his part, Advani asked party colleagues to watch the interview to CNN-IBN in full before drawing conclusions.
But BJP leaders wondered why Advani chose to say he does not expect former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee to propose his candidature for the top post.
Interestingly, the interview telecast on Monday night had a few more nuggets. Sample this:
• On many occasions, Advani does not fully agree with Vajpayee. "Though we are the best of friends, many times we don't agree with each other 100 per cent. We sit together and come to a common consensus," he said.
• On the expulsion of Uma Bharti and Madan Lal Khurana from the party, he was asked if it could have been handled differently. Advani's response: "In earlier years we have even lost our party presidents. In comparison to them, the names that you are mentioning are not major." Asked if he thought that he had moved on from those episodes, Advani said, "Yes."
The BJP remained tight-lipped about Advani's remarks. BJP deputy leader in Lok Sabha VK Malhotra parried questions about the party's stand on Advani's comments, saying any decision in this regard would be made only after the interview is telecast.
Other BJP leaders said that Advani has never made a secret of his feelings since he had to make way for Rajnath following the Jinnah controversy in December 2005. Then too, he had projected himself as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate in the 2009 polls.