New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh on Thursday met senior party leaders, including Sushma Swaraj in an effort to announce Narendra Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate on Friday, or, at the latest, by sometime next week—a move that’s beginning to look increasingly unlikely with Swaraj and party patriarch L.K. Advani wanting no announcement to be made till the completion of elections in several states in December.
Singh denied that there was any rift in the party, even as facts indicated otherwise.
“There is no problem,” Singh said when asked if there was a hitch in declaring Modi, who is the BJP’s electoral campaign chief, as its candidate for PM.
Reports of an internal rift surfaced after Singh met Advani on Wednesday to persuade him to support Modi’s candidacy. Advani refused to do so, according to people familiar with the situation. Advani has been a critic of Modi, who has led the BJP to power in Gujarat for three consecutive terms.
Singh’s predecessor as BJP president, Nitin Gadkari, met Advani on Tuesday as an emissary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the party’s ideological parent, to secure his backing for Modi, but also received no assurances from the veteran politician.
“No one is unhappy in the party,” Singh responded when asked repeatedly whether there was any unhappiness in the party over Modi.
A decision on the party’s PM candidate will be taken by the BJP’s parliamentary board “with as much consensus as possible”, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said on Wednesday when asked whether the party was united in backing Modi.
The RSS has categorically said there is no dispute over Modi’s candidacy, but the timing of an announcement anointing the Gujarat chief minister as the PM candidate has to be decided by the BJP.
Other than Advani and Swaraj, senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi is also opposed to announcing Modi as the PM candidate before the forthcoming state assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi.
Efforts were still under way on Thursday to convince Advani to relent even as one of his close associates described Modi as a “socially polarizing figure” and wondering aloud how he would be able to run a stable and effective government at the centre
“A socially polarizing leader has polarized his own party. Can he run a smooth, stable and effective government at the Centre? THINK SERIOUSLY!” Advani aide Sudheeendra Kulkarni said on Twitter in an obvious reference to Modi without naming him.
Advani has not spoken openly on Modi’s likely candidacy for PM, but Kulkarni’s remarks are seen as a reflection of his thinking. “Elections are seven months away. People want a change. But who will provide the change? Leaders who are polarizing the society?” Kulkarni tweeted.
Modi, whose political track record was marred by the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, has no lack of supporters in the BJP. Bihar BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said Advani had declared Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the party’s face in the past, and should have done the same with Modi.
“Advaniji has failed to gauge the public mood,” the Bihar politician and former deputy chief minister of the state said.
He later told TV channels that the entire country backs Modi.
“In my 40 years of political life, I have never seen the frenzy and craze that Modi has managed to generate,” he said, adding, “The entire country wants him, we have no other alternative.”
But first, everyone in the BJP should want him.