New Delhi: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has now officially become the man who will pilot the Bharatiya Janata Party's electoral fortunes in the next general election. Just hours after being anointed the BJP's poll campaign chief, Narendra Modi reached Ahmedabad to a rousing welcome.
Supporters and party workers in Gujarat turned out in full strength to welcome the Chief Minister home. On Sunday, BJP President Rajnath Singh named Modi as the man who will lead the BJP during the 2014 General Elections campaign. The BJP though has stopped short of making him their prime ministerial face.
Meanwhile, senior BJP leader LK Advani, who remained absent during the BJP National Executive where Modi's elevation was announced, has recovered from his illness. He has left his home for the first time in the past three days.
"Advani was unwell, he was wanting to come to Goa despite health problems. I convinced him to take rest," BJP President Rajnath Singh said.
Advani had declined to go to the national executive in Goa citing ill health. However, speculation was rife that he was upset with Narendra Modi's proposed elevation as campaign committee chief.
Advani had on Sunday made a reference to a wounded Bhishma Pitamah lying on a bed of arrows in a scene in Mahabharata after the sulking BJP veteran citing ill-health stayed away from the party executive meet. The 83-year-old party stalwart, however, made no mention of the Gujarat Chief Minister in his blog or in a video address to a religious event in Jaipur.
The reference to Mahabharata epic - which is often interpreted metaphorically - was made by Advani in his blog on a day when Modi was anointed as Chief of BJP's Election Campaign Committee. In his video address for the Jaipur event, Advani broke his silence on his ill-health that triggered speculation on his perceived opposition to Modi's appointment. He was due to have attended the event. Advani, who missed the Goa meet for the first time in his entire political career, said he was having "stomach upset" for the last three days and therefore could not participate in the deliberations.
In his blog, he first praised a sandalwood carving of Lord Krishna's Vishwaroop avatar, which he said also has a carving of "Bhishma Pitamah on his bed of arrows, sermonizing to the Pandavas". Advani was referring to a "remarkable" piece of sandalwood carving on display at his Prithviraj Road residence in Delhi in which Shri Krishna is administering Geetagnyan to Arjuna at Kurukshetra, and in that process giving him a darshan of His Vishwaroop.
A big question being asked after Modi's elevation is whether Modi's anointment means a retirement call for BJP patriarch LK Advani. The BJP insists that Advani is still the party's guiding force. Allies, however, indicate that he is out of the PM race.
Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, BJP leader Sidharth Nath Singh said, "Mr Advani is our father figure, he is the Bhishma Pitamah, he is our guide and he will continue to be so." When asked if this was an indication of Advani's retirement, SN Singh said, "It's not a question of retirement. We would never use that word for our fathers. We said, allow us to work, let us do the hard work, your blessings are always required and that is the situation in the BJP."
Singh added, "He is a guiding force for us. What more role do you want?"
However, the allies do not feel the same. When asked if Advani is no longer a force to reckon with in the polls next year, Janata Dal United leader Devesh Chandra Thakur said, "Even though many people won't like and may differ on his utility now, it seems to be a reality that Advani won't be a Prime Ministerial candidate."
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh on Sunday said his heart goes out to Advani. "My heart goes out to Advani-ji. He brought the BJP from two to 182 in the Lok Sabha. But then the ungrateful BJP is a party with differences," tweeted Digvijaya.