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Who is BJP’s PM-in-waiting?

Battle rages on about who should be projected as prime minister in the event of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s exit, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Sep 08, 2007 02:24 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times

No one in the BJP may believe that the party can win the Lok Sabha elections if they are held soon, but the battle rages on about who should be projected as prime minister in the event of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s exit.

Former Union minister and BJP vice-president Yashwant Sinha on Friday set BJP circles aflutter by remarking in an interview that the Leader of the Opposition (LK Advani) need not be the party’s prime minister-in-waiting.

Speaking to NDTV, he said India has no convention on the Leader of Opposition being seen as the PM-in-waiting. "Which party has followed this tradition? Sonia Gandhi was the leader of the Opposition. Did she become the prime minister?" he asked.

When he was asked if he meant that Advani should not be considered PM-in-waiting, Sinha said, “No, this is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that whenever a decision is taken on this issue within the party and the NDA, you will be told, the entire world will be told. Today, when no decision has been taken on this, it would be improper for me to take somebody’s name."

Sinha also said Advani had himself stated that this tradition is not practised in India. Asked whether party chief Rajnath Singh should be the natural candidate for the post of PM, Sinha said, "I believe the party has many great leaders, who, if elected prime minister, will bring honour to the post. We are neither a one-book party nor a one-leader party. We have a collective leadership and all decisions are taken collectively."

What led many to read meanings into Sinha’s comments was that he is seen as being very close to Vajpayee and Rajnath Singh and has not had the best of relations with Advani for some time.

Before he quit as party chief in the wake of his controversial remark on Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Advani had axed Sinha as BJP spokesperson after he had criticised him. A few months later, Rajnath Singh rehabilitated him when he took over the party presidentship. In May this year, Sinha was given charge of BJP affairs in Karnataka.

A few days ago, Sinha was cut up with Advani for his remarks on the India-US nuclear deal, which was seen as a turnaround by the party after the former had articulated a hard stand on the issue, with the approval of senior BJP leaders, including Vajpayee. Later, Advani modified his stand, supporting Sinha’s stronger statement on the deal.