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Gadkari restricts PM nominees race in BJP

india Updated: Nov 13, 2011 23:46 IST

BJP president Nitin Gadkari has done it again. He has played a masterstroke one more time to ensure that his party’s prime ministerial aspirants should first pass the litmus test of winning a Lok Sabha seat before offering themselves for the top position. The move is seen as an attempt to reduce the claimants for the PM’s chair if and when the BJP/NDA win the next Parliamentary poll.

The BJP chief’s latest statement is being interpreted in political circles as a signal to some of his party colleagues such as Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi that their PM ambitions would depend on their will to contest a Lok Sabha election. The second objective of Gadkari’s insistence on a Lok Sabha seat for the wannabe PM is to also send another clear message to LK Advani to curtail his ambitions.

According to Sangh sources, the condition put forward by the RSS leadership to support the ongoing Jan Chetna Yatra was that Advani should withdraw himself from the race for PMship and he should not contest a Lok Sabha seat in future. But the BJP’s veteran leader known for his astuteness has so far categorically not stated that he was not in the race for PMship by putting off questions with a cryptic answer that “the party will decide on its candidate at an appropriate time’’.

Gadkari in an interview to HT some months ago had stated that his party would not project anyone for the PM’s post thereby clearly indicating that Advani was not going to be the BJP’s PM nominee as he was in 2009 before being rejected by the people.

However, Advani took everyone by surprise by announcing his Yatra unilaterally and indicating that he was still the tallest BJP leader and no one should assume that he had retired from active politics. He was summoned by the RSS leadership at Nagpur and told about the conditions to support his Yatra, which apparently he accepted. Since then, he has kept himself in the news thereby fuelling speculation that he was very keen to have another shot at the PM’s chair.

Advani’s Yatra has shown that he was very much in command since he has been speaking on behalf of the party all through and has been setting its future political agenda. His Yatra and the manner in which the two leaders of opposition, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley have been playing second fiddle to him shows that they are his appointees and thus governed by his diktats. Gadkari whose position has been compromised by Advani’s larger than life role is keen that he should assert himself.

His latest statement is an attempt to show that he and not Advani was setting the agenda. By making Lok Sabha winning mandatory, the BJP chief has tried to use the Sushma-Arun rivalry to draw a wedge in the Advani camp.

Secondly, he has sent a message to Modi that he should be prepared to contest the Lok Sabha polls. This means that Modi will have to decide between politics of the centre or that of his state.

Jaitley whose Rajya Sabha term expires early next year may thus be given another term to the august House supported by Modi to keep him “out of the race’’ for PMship in the light of Gadkari’s statement. The long and short of it is that it is politics at its best in the Saffron Brigade.