Could there be more to why L K Advani, the BJP’s patriarch, resisted contesting from Gandhinagar than his friction with Narendra Modi?
Gandhinagar has been Advani’s constituency since 1991. But equations have changed since then. Modi, his one time protégé who became Gujarat’s chief minister, is now the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. And although Advani and Modi do not get along, a ground report from the constituency reveals that India’s former deputy prime minister might not be as popular as he once was with the masses.
Back in 2004, when NDA, after a full term launched its India Shining campaign, Gandhinagar voted for Advani, believing they were choosing a prospective PM candidate. Advani secured 5,16,120 votes against his Congress challenger Gabhaji Thakore, a 25.68 per cent victory margin. Advani had bettered his 1999 result, when he defeated former Election Commissioner T N Seshan, who was on a Congress ticket.
In 2009 Advani and his family carried out an extensive door-to-door campaign ahead of polling. In his long political innings, Advani has seldom had to resort to something like this, a tool usually reserved for political debutants.
He eventually won, but his margin of victory had fallen sharply.
This was the first election he was contesting after fissures in his relationship with Modi had begun to emerge. It was also the first time someone else from the BJP (Modi) was being talked of as a PM candidate. When BJP leader and journalist Arun Shourie said at a packed press conference that Gujarat has the rare opportunity of electing two prime ministerial candidates, Advani saw the writing on the wall. Was Advani always going to be remembered as the ‘former future prime minister of India’?
Analyst Vishnu Pandya believes the results of the 2009 general elections bore the first marks of a next generation of leaders demanding their space in the higher echelons of the party’s power structure.
Owing to delimitation, the boundaries of Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency were redrawn ahead of the 2009 elections.