An upset stomach, a flight to Goa not taken and other details of a sulk untold
Ajay Singh | June 12, 2013
A few days before the BJP’s national executive meeting in Goa, a meeting between BJP president Rajnath Singh and patriarch LK Advani at the latter’s residence in Delhi was quite tense. The moment he sought Advani’s approval for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s coronation as numero uno in the party, the party veteran reminded Singh about his proposition to make Nitin Gadkari the head of the election management committee to oversee state elections.
Singh had been trying to fob off Advani by delaying assignment to Gadkari on one pretext or the other for the past two months. He is believed to be frequently using the pretext of the RSS to stave off Advani’s demand. Insiders maintain that there was an obvious pressure from the RSS point man, Suresh Soni, and his close confidant Arun Jaitley not to honour Advani’s wishes. Advani’s move was seen as an obstruction in the carefully-crafted move to anoint Modi with a fanfare that would have no parallel in the party.
Advani clearly understood the scheming and intrigues of his colleagues. On June 6, his stomach got upset – which was believed to be the physical manifestation of the psychological stress he was going through. On June 7, he was supposed to go to Goa to attend the conference of the office-bearers on the eve of the national executive. This conference charts out the agenda for the executive.
Advani got the feedback that the agenda singularly focused on the elevation of Modi without even the mention of his proposition about the announcement of the central election management committee. Advani decided not to board the commercial flight scheduled to take him to Goa on health grounds. But he was sure to leave the next day, i.e. June 8, to attend the conference. A chartered plane was kept ready. But soon after the meeting of the office-bearers on June 7, it became clear that the party’s front-ranking leadership had decided to ignore Advani’s absence. Late in the evening, the veteran leader decided to not to go to Goa on the first day of the executive.
However, Advani got the definite feedback on the manner in which RSS point person Suresh Soni, combined with Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley, carried out the sole agenda of Modi’s coronation. What appeared to have rubbed salt on Advani’s wound is Soni’s reported proclamation that Modi’s coronation would have the blessing of the RSS. However, a few days earlier Bhaiyaji Joshi, the RSS general secretary, had asked Rajnath Singh to evolve a consensus before any declaration. The BJP president chose to ignore Joshi’s advice and stood by Soni’s on the issue.
In the evening, Advani decided to miss the executive altogether. Around 11 am on June 9, Rajnath Singh asked M Venkaiah Naidu to brief Advani about the announcement of Modi’s elevation which he was going to make. The interaction was terse and to the point. The veteran leader is reported to have conveyed his displeasure by saying, “Mujhe dukh hai (I am sad).” His grouse stemmed from the fact that he was totally ignored at the meeting. Rajnath Singh went ahead to declare Modi’s anointment as the chairman of the campaign committee, much to the delight of members of the national executive. Modi, Jaitley and Rajnath Singh staged a combined show of solidarity as a bulwark against Advani.
On the night of June 9, Advani silently drafted a letter of resignation and after careful deliberations got it delivered to Rajnath Singh the next morning through one of his aides. Singh rushed to Advani’s house to pacify the old guard but found him very curt. Advani released his letter to the media which triggered another avalanche within 24 hours of Modi’s coronation. That Advani chose to act as the angry old man and not as a dissident saved the day for him in a BJP where the front-ranking leadership was quite keen to jettison him. He is reported to have ignored the presence of Jaitley and Suresh Soni when they called on him to persuade him to withdraw the letter. In the evening, the BJP parliamentary board unanimously rejected Advani’s resignation.
On June 11, Nitin Gadkari and S Gurumurthy acted as intermediaries and got RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to speak with Advani and persuade him to withdraw his resignation. However, the veteran leader let it be known to the RSS chief that he was unhappy over the manner in which the party is being micromanaged and run by the RSS point person and his cohorts. Bhagwat concurred with Advani’s concerns but asked him to withdraw the resignation. Ironically, Advani who complained about the RSS interference in the BJP allowed himself to be persuaded by its sarsanghchalak (the RSS chief). A swayamsevak that he is, Advani is aware of the sangh’s culture where defiance to the RSS chief is the ultimate apostasy. And by bowing to the RSS chief’s wishes, he made it clear that he is still in the reckoning.
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