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Advani is BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister

Neena Vyas

Vajpayee told Rajnath that his health no longer permitted him to work actively for the party

Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Strategic move: Senior BJP leader L. K. Advani being greeted by party president Rajnath Singh (right) and Murli Manohar Joshi in New Delhi on Monday after the announcement that he will be the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha election. —

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday announced that senior leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani will be its prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha election. This brings to an end a perceived leadership tussle in the party.

The announcement came after a meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Board chaired by party president Rajnath Singh.

Mr. Singh said at the meeting — Mr. Advani was also present — that when he met the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a couple of days ago, the veteran leader told him that his health no longer permitted him to work actively for the party.

Vajpayee’s “blessings”

The party should move forward under Mr. Advani’s leadership and his (Mr. Vajpayee’s) “affection and blessings” would be with the organisation, Mr. Singh quoted Mr. Vajpayee as saying.

Mr. Singh made the announcement to reporters as Mr. Advani was by his side. Several senior leaders, including Jaswant Singh, Arun Jaitley, Murli Manohar Joshi and Venkaiah Naidu, were present. Mr. Advani said: “I am grateful to Atalji, the party president [Mr. Singh] and the party. I pray to God to give me the strength to fulfil this responsibility.”

Mr. Singh told reporters that he said in May this year, “After Atalji, Advaniji is the natural choice of the party (as its prime ministerial candidate).”

In 1995, as party president, Mr. Advani announced Mr. Vajpayee as the prime ministerial aspirant. Now the current president has done the same for him.

Apparently, the understanding with the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) is that Mr. Advani should cooperate with Mr. Singh than competing with him, as the prime ministerial question had been settled, authoritative sources told The Hindu.

Hectic consultations

Sources in the party said that over the last one month, Mr. Singh met Mr. Vajpayee several times and there were hectic consultations among RSS general secretary Mohan Bhagwat, other senior RSS functionaries, Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Singh. Mr. Bhagwat also met Mr. Vajpayee a month ago.

Although party leaders denied that the issue had any connection with the Gujarat polls, privately it was said that it was meant to give a signal to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi that he should not see himself as a future BJP prime minister.

Some leaders conceded that the announcement on the eve of the first phase of Gujarat elections was meant to boost the party’s electoral prospects as Mr. Advani is an MP from Gandhinagar.

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