New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani on Thursday said he is not a contender for the prime minister’s post, but he did not rule out the possibility of taking charge of the party once again.
“The party has given me so much all my life that when somebody says you have to become the prime minister, I say becoming prime minister is not more than what I have got from the party... Tell me, is it bigger than the party?” Advani asked gathered mediapersons on his 85th birthday.
Political observers say his remarks should be seen as part of the larger internal dynamics around the impending exit of current president Nitin Gadkari, facing charges of impropriety in financial deals.
The veteran leader’s remarks come at a time when the BJP has been wracked by an internal crisis surrounding Gadkari, with the party being divided over his continuance at the top post. In fact, so fierce is the criticism within the party that it might reverse its earlier stance and deny Gadkari a second consecutive term as president.
“His statement suggests that he is not devoid of ambition. He is saying give me my due without getting involved into shadow boxing with leaders like Gadkari and (Gujarat chief minister Narendra) Modi and others,” said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst.
“He is also saying that I am above all the internal fighting and do not want to get into street fighting,” Mrug added.
Although a section of party leaders, including former minister and BJP Rajya Sabha member Ram Jethmalani, demanded Gadkari’s resignation, the party leadership on Tuesday evening decided to back Gadkari for the time being. The Jethmalani-led group’s outbursts against Gadkari were seen as a demand made on the behest of Modi. Jethmalani had also said that Modi should be declared as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the next general election due in 2014.
Advani and Gadkari did not attend the core group meeting on Tuesday, but the party president was one among the first to reach Advani’s residence to greet him on his birthday.
However, a political observer who has been closely monitoring the developments in the main opposition party for nearly three decades said Advani is “morally and ethically” against Gadkari.
“At the same time, he is not opposing what Modi is perceived to be doing against Gadkari,” said the person, who did not want to be identified.
BJP leaders admitted that the temporary truce was called as they could not reach a consensus on the successor. At least two leaders have indicated that Advani, who had been the president of the BJP in the past, could take over the reins of the main opposition party again. They declined to be named.