The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday managed to get LK Advani to accept the party’s decision to field him from the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat in Gujarat. But this was not before the veteran leader showed the party brass that he would not be browbeaten and, like Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi before him, he had the right to pick the seat of his choice.
The high-voltage drama began on Wednesday night when the BJP’s Central Election Committee (CEC) decided to field Advani from Gandhinagar in his absence and apparently without his consent.
Advani reportedly conveyed his disagreement with the decision. Thereafter the party went into a tailspin. Narendra Modi reportedly met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat soon after the CEC meeting ended and Rajnath Singh tried to find ways to get Advani to agree to his candidature from Gandhinagar.
On Thursday morning, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari went to Advani’s official bungalow and spent almost an hour with him. Soon afterwards, they both drove to the BJP president’s house. RSS leader Suresh Soni too was believed to have been present during this meeting.
After a day of tense negotiations, during which Rajnath Singh also had to rush to Chennai to announce the BJP’s alliance with regional parties in Tamil Nadu, the BJP President came out with a detailed statement.
Reversing the CEC’s decision, the BJP President said Advani was free to choose his constituency.
“It is the unanimous view of the party that the choice of where to contest from should be left to Advaniji himself. I have spoken to Advaniji and conveyed the views of all to him in this regard. The party will respect the opinion of Advaniji with regard to his choice of constituency for contesting the election,” said the BJP President in a statement.
To calm tempers, Rajnath explained why the BJP had unilaterally decided to announce his candidature from Gandhinagar.
“Advaniji has represented the Gandhinagar Parliamentary Constituency since 1991. He has been winning that constituency in each of the last five general elections by a large margin. The Gujarat unit of the BJP had unanimously recommended Advaniji’s name for contesting the Lok Sabha election from Gandhinagar this time as well, and the Central Election Committee of the party also unanimously decided that Advaniji should contest from Gandhinagar.”
Rajnath also highlighted that Advani could contest from Bhopal if he wanted to.
“There was an alternative suggestion that Advaniji should contest from Bhopal. The Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP has recommended Advaniji’s name from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat. They were keen that Advaniji, the senior-most leader of the party should contest from that State, so that the Party’s gains in that State may also be enhanced.”
Minutes later, the BJP released a statement from Advani saying he was “deeply touched” by two units of the party inviting him to contest from different States. However, he maintained, he had decided to stick to Gandhinagar.
“Rajnath Singh, the President of my party, had conveyed to me the desire of the Gujarat Unit of the BJP and the decision of the CEC yesterday that I should contest the Parliamentary election from Gandhinagar. This morning, Narendra Modi also came over to my residence and emphasised that the people of Gujarat are keen that I represent Gandhinagar Lok Sabha once again,” said Advani, adding that Rajnath informed him that the MP unit wanted him to contest from Bhopal.