Advani signaled his acceptance of the BJP central election committee’s decision to re-assign him the Gandhinagar seat through a brief statement after party chief Rajnath Singh gave him an escape route by announcing that the leader was free to choose his seat.
But Singh’s statement was part of a carefully choreographed sequence of events which unfolded once Advani had read the writing on the wall when a trail of senior leader met him to emphasize that he would have to give his plan to shift to Bhopal.
Starting with BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi early on Thursday morning, a number of party leaders including Sushma Swaraj, Arun jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu urged Advani to abandon his bid to contest from Bhopal.
They told him that under the current circumstances, this was not possible as it would be interpreted of Advani’s continued differences with Modi. Advani, who had previously refused to heed similar pleas on Wednesday evening, came around by noon and conveyed his readiness to contest from Gandhinagar after all by Thursday afternoon.
This set in motion a show of accommodation allowing Advani to claim that BJP had offered both seats to him and he, touched by the gesture, had decided stay put in Gandhinagar. “I am deeply touched by this gesture of my party colleagues. I had some weeks ago said that I would be contesting the parliamentary election from Ganhinagar itself. I have been intergrally connected with Gujarat since migrating from Karachi from 1947,”he said.
While both Advani and BJP chief Rajnath Singh claimed that the Madhya Pradesh unit had also recommended the veteran for Bhopal, sources revealed that the state had made no suggestions for the seat in the list it forwarded to the central leadership. In fact, Bhopal was not discussed at the Wednesday’s central election committee meeting.
Though outgoing Bhopal MP Kailash Joshi had said he would like to make way for Advani and MP chief minister Shivraj Cauhan said the stalwart was welcome to contest from the state, sources said these were expressions of goodwill and deference rather than a formal invitation to contest the Bhopal seat.
This is the second time that Advani had to abandon a rebellion against the Modi-Rajnath Singh-Arun Jaitley axis midway. In June last year, he had quit all party posts when Modi was named campaign chief for Lok Sabha polls in the party executive in Goa. Later, his staying away from a meeting of parliamentary board in September failed to deter the leadership from naming Modi as PM candidate.
If that failure underlined Advani’s diminishing clout, the party brass’s refusal to concede his demand for the Bhopal seat marks a further decline in the authority of a leader who had been synonymous with BJP’s rise to political centrestage on the back of the Ram temple movement that he steered.
The manner in which senior leader M M Joshi’s concerns over making way for Modi at Varanasi were dealt with, the decision not to allow Advani not to switch seats is another blow to the old guard.
Advani who has all along keen on Ganhinagar suddenly turned his attention to Bhopal triggering the suspicion in a section of the party that he wanted his signal his independence of Modi while the move would also draw attention to the continued rift in the BJP.
The curtain came down on Thursday evening with Advani’s statement saying : “I have represented the state both in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Having represented Gandhinagar constituency in the Lok Sabha since 1991, I have decided to contest the 2014 general elections from Gandhinagar itself,” Advani said in the statement, bringing to an end the raging row over his constituency.