The BJP on Tuesday defused the crisis precipitated by patriarch LK Advani’s dramatic resignation from party posts by securing a U-turn from him without diluting Narendra Modi’s position as the party’s face for its 2014 election campaign.
The climbdown by the 85-year-old came after an intervention by the BJP’s ideological patron, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). In a phone conversation organised by rightwing ideologue S Gurumurthy and former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat requested Advani to withdraw his resignation, saying it would harm the party.
Advani, who has had a rocky relationship with the RSS in recent years but understands only too well its hold over the BJP, acquiesced.
Sources said he had been assured that as part of the party’s parliamentary board, he would retain a say in crucial decisions like the choice of PM candidate. In effect though, he secured little or no more leverage over key decision-making than he already had before he resigned. Significantly, there was no announcement of the parallel poll campaign panel he had wanted.
So in the end, it was Advani’s bête noire Modi who emerged unscathed in this round of the damaging power struggle within the BJP, his position as frontrunner for PM candidate intact.
Senior BJP leader LK Advani with party president Rajnath Singh and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad. PTI file photo
Party chief Rajnath Singh read out a BJP statement at a news conference at Advani’s residence, noting the parliamentary board had rejected his resignation and asked him to continue as member of the board, election committee and national executive.
“On behalf of the party Shri Rajnath Singh assured Shri Advani that his concerns about the functioning of the party would be properly addressed and the President would discuss the modalities of addressing these concerns with Shri Advani,” the statement said.
But while Rajnath was flanked by Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Jaswant Singh, Uma Bharti, Ananth Kumar and others, Advani himself skipped the conference, which many saw as a sign that the truce was shaky.
Over the last 24 hours, Advani apparently conveyed to BJP leaders that he was unhappy with the way RSS pointsmen in the BJP Suresh Soni and Ram Lal were trying to “micromanage” the party. In his resignation a day earlier, Advani had complained that most leaders in the party were pursuing their “personal agendas’.
Modi welcomed the turn of events promptly, but not without making it clear that he was the leader: “I had said yesterday that Advani ji will not disappoint lakhs of karyakartas. Today, I wholeheartedly welcome his decision.”
Earlier in the day, the BJP’s Odisha state executive passed a resolution in favour of the decision taken by Rajnath Singh regarding Modi’s elevation, a pressure tactic in Modi’s favour.