All through the poll campaign, the people of Gujarat were asked to ensure that the next prime minister of the country came from their state.
Prime ministerial aspirant Lal Krishna Advani, 81, was contesting the Gandhinagar seat from their state and a host of advertisements exhorted them to secure his victory.
But one day before polling, from Wednesday onwards, Advani’s picture mysteriously disappeared from all the advertisements that appeared in the daily newspapers. While Modi’s visage is seen in every one of them, Advani’s is nowhere to be found. Even the body copy of the ads make only a single reference to Advani.
“It is not accidental,” said Ankur Sarin, professor at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. “It is obviously an omission by choice. It probably has to do with the internal affairs of the BJP.”
Did the model code of conduct debar mentioning a candidate’s name in advertisements on polling day? “There is no such bar in print ads, though there are some restrictions on electronic display,” said an election commission official.
Tensions have been brewing within the BJP in recent days, following the efforts of one section of leaders to project Narendra Modi as a future prime minister. Though all those who have projected him thus have been careful to insist that they want Modi to succeed Advani, those opposed to Modi see the rising chorus as an attempt to undermine Advani’s claim, even as the BJP is facing a tough election and Advani's chances of ascending to that position at all are mixed.
Significantly, at a rally in Gandhinagar three days ago, Advani refused to add his voice to the growing clamour of ‘Modi for prime minister’. Hhe said the BJP had many deserving candidates who could succeed him to this post, specifically naming Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who just won a second term in office last December, and whose record in development - like Modi's - is widely appreciated. But Advani did not mention Modi.
The state BJP sought to play down the matter. “There is nothing to read between the lines,” said Yamal Vyas, BJP spokesperson. “We just wanted to take full advantage of the enormous appeal Narendra Modi has in this state.”