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File photo of senior BJP leader L. K. Advani.
File photo of senior BJP leader L. K. Advani.
National

Advani agrees to contest from Gandhinagar after BJP leaves choice to him

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, March 20, 2014

After sulking for nearly 24 hours during which top leaders of the party sought to mollify him, veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani today announced that he would contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, giving up his insistence on fighting from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.
Mr Advani, 86, was miffed by the fact that the party had decided to field him from Gandhinagar, from where he has been elected five times, though he had indicated that he would prefer to contest from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.
He was also upset that the party did not give him any choice in this matter, though it had accommodated the wishes of several other senior leaders by allowing them to fight from constituencies they wanted.
In a statement issued here this evening, Mr Advani said BJP President Rajnath Singh had conveyed to him the "desire of the Gujarat unit of the BJP and the decision of the Election Committee yesterday that I should contest the Parliamentary election from Gandhinagar."
He said that, this morning, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, also came over to his residence and emphasised that the people of Gujarat were keen that he represent Gandhinagar in the Lok Sabha once again.
He said Mr Rajnath Singh informed him today that the Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP had also suggested his name for contesting the Bhopal Parliamentary seat.
"He has further informed me that after consulting all colleagues in the Parliamentary Board and the Central Election Committee of the party, it has been agreed that the choice between the two parliamentary seats should be left to me.
"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 Gandhinagar itself. I have been integrally connected with Gujarat since migrating from Karachi in 1947. 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. I have conveyed my opinion to Shri Rajnath Singh," he said.
Mr Advani also conveyed his gratitude to Mr Kailash Joshi, the present member from Bhopal in Lok Sabha, who had offered him the seat, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Madhya Pradesh BJP chief Narinder Singh Tomar for proposing his name from Bhopal.
Shortly before Mr Advani's decision, Mr Rajnath Singh issued a statement notng that the former Deputy Prime Minister had represented Gandhinagar in the Lok Sabha since 1991.
"He has been winning that constituency in each of the last five general elections by a large margin. The Gujarat Unit of BJP had unanimously recommended Shri Advaniji’s name for contesting the Lok Sabha election from Gandhinagar this time also, and the Central Election Committee of the Party also unanimously decided that Shri Advaniji should contest from Gandhinagar.
"There was an alternate suggestion that Shri Advaniji should contest from Bhopal. The Madhya Pradesh Unit of the BJP has recommended Shri Advaniji’s name from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat. They were keen that Shri 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," he said.
"I have consulted the members of the Parliamentary Board and the Central Election Committee of the Party on this issue telephonically since most of the members are traveling in various parts of the country. It is the unanimous view of the party that the choice of where to contest from should be left to Shri Advaniji himself. I have spoken to Shri Advaniji and conveyed the views of all to him in this regard. The party will respect the opinion of Shri Advaniji with regard to his choice of constituency for contesting the election," Mr Rajnath Singh added.
The two statements, with Mr Rajnath Singh saying that Mr Advani could choose the constituency he wanted to contest from, and the veteran leader accepting the BJP's decision, indicated that the party had managed to find a way out of an embarassing situation.
The solution was worked out after several senior BJP leaders met Mr Advani last night and throughout the day and following a gentle nudge from the top brass of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is learnt to have advised the party leadership to quickly put a lid on the controversy by accommodating his wishes and showing due deference to his age, seniority and stature.
Senior leaders Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari had met Mr Advani at his residence here last night to apprise him of the party's position in the matter and persuade him to accept the decision.
The party's Parliamentary Board had last night, after a marathon sitting, decided that Mr Advani would be renominated from Gandhinagar and that Mr Modi would contest from a second seat, Vadodara, in that state.
The party had earlier, on March 15, announced that Mr Modi would contest from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
Mr Advani's request to move from Gandhinagar to Bhopal was seen as an indication of the uneasy relationship that he shares with Mr Modi, whose elevation as the party's Prime Ministerial candidate had upset him. Mr Advani has for long wanted a shot at the top job himself.
His insistence on moving to Bhopal has also given rise to speculation that he feared that his chances of getting re-elected from Gandhinagar might be sabotaged by Mr Modi's supporters, who had not taken kindly to Mr Advani's objections to the Gujarat Chief Minister's elevation as the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate.
Mr Advani was not present at yesterday's meeting of the party's Parliamentary Board. The party's view has been that any shift by Mr Advani would send out "wrong signals". Mr Modi was amongst those who attended the meeting.
Earlier, the sitting MP from Bhopal and BJP veteran Kailash Joshi had said that he was not keen on contesting from the constituency and had offered the seat to Mr Advani.
This morning, Mr Modi himself met Mr Advani and talked to him for more than half an hour. Later, Ms Swaraj met him again, as did former party president M Venkaiah Naidu.
Political observers said Mr Advani was, by expressing his wish to contest from Bhopal, sending out the message that he was not dependent on Mr Modi to get re-elected to the Lok Sabha.
Some weeks ago, there were suggestions that the BJP might ask Mr Advani to opt for a Rajya Sabha seat, but that move was dropped after the party patriarch made it clear that he was keen on contesting again from Gandhinagar and in no mood to retire from electoral politics.
The BJP leaders who met Mr Advani as well as the RSS are learnt to have conveyed to him that the party's decision on Gandhinagar would not be changed. But, by this evening, the party appeared to be in a mood to relent and accomodate him, with Mr Rajnath Singh telling reporters in Chennai that Mr Advani was free to contest from any seat of his choice. "It is entirely upto Mr Advani," he said.
The spat, which was all over the front pages and on all television news channels, has caused acute embarassment for the BJP just weeks ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections.
Earlier, another senior party leader, Murli Manohar Joshi, was said to be unhappy with the fact that the BJP had made him shift to Kanpur from Varanasi to make away for Mr Modi. Another veteran leader Lalji Tandon was reportedly upset that his Lucknow seat was given to Mr Rajnath Singh.
In Punjab, former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu had to give up Amritsar, a seat he had won thrice, to enable another senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley to contest from there. Mr Sidhu was offered two other seats, but he made it clear that he would not fight from anywhere else.
In Rajasthan, former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh is learnt to have told Mr Rajnath Singh that he would contest from Barmer as an independent if he were denied a ticket from there.
On June 10 last year, Mr Advani had resigned from all posts in the party, a day after its president Rajnath Singh, ignoring his objections, appointed Mr Modi as the chairman of its campaign committee for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
He came around a day later on the request of senior leaders and on the advice of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Mr Advani had, at that time, skipped the BJP's national executive meeting in Goa, where the announcement about Mr Modi was made.
The manner in which the BJP top brass went ahead and announced Mr Modi's appointment, in Mr Advani's absence, led to the conclusion in many quarters that he had been marginalized by the party that he had led at one time.
Mr Advani, along with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is amongst the tallest leaders of the BJP, which the two had helped to found and build over the past three decades and more.
It was largely due to his efforts that the BJP bounced back from just two Lok Sabha seats in 1984 to 86 in 1989, 121 in 1992 and 161 in 1996, when it became the single largest party in the Lok Sabha.
Mr Advani was the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2009 elections, which saw the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) win a second term in office.
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