Former vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s desire to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections has brought in a new dimension to the BJP’s internal debate over the issue of leadership.
Though Shekhawat call has come with a rider that “he would do so only if his health permits”, the party is abuzz with the implications of his plans. Some wonder whether it may throw spanner in L.K. Advani’s plans as prime minister candidate, post-Lok Sabha polls.
Shekhawat, 85, prides himself as a leader who is widely acceptable across the political divide. Shekhawat’s “expression of interest” was received by senior BJP leaders with disquiet with some saying that “it is just a loud thinking and nothing will change in our projection of Advani until the Lok Sabha polls.”
While BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said “Shekhawat was a respected leader of the party”, another BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said “Advani is the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP and this has the approval of the NDA as well.”
Shekhawat, who made his plan known on Monday, said he had got good response from the people. Shekhawat’s aides said he had been asked by his supporters to contest from Jaipur, Tonk or Jalore, which has become a general seat.
Shekhawat’s ability to cut across the political spectrum was demonstrated when he was elected as the Vice-President in 2002, when he defeated the opposition candidate, Sushil Kumar Shinde, by a margin of 149 votes out of the 750 votes polled.
What has worried other BJP leaders is that Shekhawat also made remarks critical of the manner in which the BJP handled the assembly polls in Rajasthan.
Shekhawat resigned as the vice-president in July 2007, disappointed by the Presidential elections.