BJP chief Rajnath Singh has said LK Advani would be the party's candidate for the prime minister's post 'after' Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as he ruled himself out of the race for the top job.
Rajnath told NDTV: "Why after Atal...? It will be only Advani after Atal. He will be the natural choice. Only he should become the prime minister. This is the law of nature, which Rajnath cannot fight with."
Rajnath’s remark on Advani was seen by other BJP leaders as an indication that the RSS was no longer upset with Advani - as it used to be earlier when a controversy arouse over his comment on secular credentials of Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
That controversy saw the RSS ask Advani to quit as BJP chief in December 2005 and install Rajnath in his place. In December 2006, a fresh controversy followed Advani's television interview.
News reports based on the transcript of Advani's interview to CNN-IBN suggested that the former deputy prime minister regarded himself as the natural claimant for the prime minister's post in next elections.
In a bid to cap that controversy, Rajnath said both Advani and Vajpayee will be the party's prime ministerial candidates in the next general elections. He ruled himself out in the race for the top job.
Rajnath has consistently held that "in the BJP, there are only two leaders - Vajpayee and LK Advani, who may be the prime ministerial candidate in future."
On being reminded that Vajpayee had himself said he did not want to be prime minister again, Singh said "we will see when the time comes".
With the RSS opposed to any personality being projected, Rajnath’s remark that Advani would be PM’s candidate was significant, said a BJP leader. Since the Jinnah controversy, the Sangh leaders have been emphasising on "collective leadership."
The BJP’s problem, say second-rung leaders, is that the party cannot agree on a name. Though worried as they are by Congress’ projection of Rahul Gandhi, BJP leaders have sought to dismiss his appeal among young people.
Senior BJP leader VK Malhotra said he believed no Congress leader except for the Amethi lawmaker's great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru ever enjoyed support of young people in Uttar Pradesh.
"He is either stuck in a time warp or is bragging. As far as I can recall, it was only Nehru who enjoyed support of 80-85 per cent of the state population. Also, I would like to ask him that if he really enjoys support of young people then why his party is trailing at fourth position (in exit polls)."