The BJP top brass remained huddled in late night parleys on Thursday to avoid a showdown as party president Rajnath Singh appeared in a mood to declare Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi the prime ministerial candidate.
The party appears to have decided to ignore the prolonged defiance of patriarch LK Advani and his close confidante Sushma Swaraj on the Hindutva posterboy’s coronation.
The BJP has decided to name Modi its poll mascot and the formal announcement may take place on Friday, taking into account senior leaders’ presence in the national capital, a senior leader told Deccan Herald on the condition of anonymity.
On a day packed with meetings, Rajnath Singh called a meeting around midnight with secretary Ram Lal, who is the pointman between the party and the RSS and other leaders to decide Modi’s fate. The point of contention is whether the declaration should be done by the parliamentary board, which is meeting on Friday evening, or outside the highest decision-making body.
Party sources said Advani has put his foot down on Modi’s elevation as he believes that the BJP would not be able to capitalise on what he perceives as anti-Congress sentiments in the country due to his pro-Hindutva image.
Like Advani, Sushma too believes that the announcement should happen after the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi, which would also test the popularity of Modi as he is already the party’s poll campaign chief.
She wants the decision to be taken only by the parliamentary board, despite the fact that previously, the prime ministerial candidate was announced without taking the approval of the 12-member highest decision-making body and was ratified later.
It is learnt that another senior leader M M Joshi has softened his stand by agreeing that he will go with the party’s decision if there is a consensus on Modi.
Senior party leaders M Venkiah Naidu, Murlidhar Rao and Ananth Kumar met a reluctant Advani on Thursday again to convince him to give up his resistance. Advani, said the sources, had also expressed his reservation to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat when the two had met to sort out differences on Modi’s candidature.
Rajnath Singh also had a meeting with Sushma late in the evening to allay her apprehensions on Modi’s appointment. The sources said that Singh is walking extra mile to ensure that Advani is not hurt on the possible public announcement.
Early in the day, Singh tried to cover up the differences. "I want to clarify that nobody in the BJP is unhappy and nobody has put any conditions (on declaring Modi as PM candidate)," he said. He, however, was evasive on convening of parliamentary board meeting to put a stamp on his candidature. "It will be conveyed to you whenever it will be taken," he quipped.
The war of wards between the Advani and Modi camps is already showing up. Former prime minister Advani’s close associate Sudheendhra Kulkarni attacked Modi in his tweet, questioning his ability to lead the country as he described him as a "polarising" leader". "A socially polarising leader has polarised his own party. Can he run a smooth, stable and effective government at the Centre? think seriously!" Kulkarni tweeted without taking Modi’s name.