Friction between BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and party patriarch LK Advani seems to drag on. The issue of whether Advani should fight the Lok Sabha election from Gandhinagar as the party wants him to do, or he should be allowed to have his way and fight from Bhopal is but the latest instance of a battle of will of the two leaders. Advani has been making his sense of unease and displeasure about the manner in which Modi has been pushed into the prime slot, clear. But the new rung of top leaders led by party president Rajnath Singh have made it clear that they will continue to make decisions which may not be palatable to the senior leader and though they are willing to show him the courtesy and deference due to him, it will not be possible to seek his approval. This is the logic of a power relationship.
Advani has been an influential power player in the party for two decades, and ironically it is his own group of acolytes, which includes Modi, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, which has decided that it is time for them to be decision-makers. Advani still commands a small of group of loyalists, and it is this group which is trying to make the connect between the new leaders and the old leader.
What divides Advani and the new group is not substance but style. Advani still displays the old world ways of working through groups quietly while pushing his own people and programmes. And he had done it successfully as well. He managed to elevate Sushma Swaraj and Jaitley as leaders of opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha without ruffling too many feathers. The consensus that Advani has created has broken down.
Modi has established his own credentials in the party, and he has emerged as an icon for the party workers. Singh, Jaitley, Swaraj and others have accepted the natural ascendancy of Modi. These leaders also sense the imperative of projecting a leader who is capable of firing the imagination of the party workers as well as the voters. Advani seems to feel that Modi should not be projected as a lone leader and that he (Modi) should be part of a collective leadership before he is allowed to emerge on his own. Modi has grow tall inside and outside the party, and it will be a difficult thing to show him his place. Modi is brash compared to Advani, but he is tactful as well. He has strengthened his position in the party because he has formed his own ginger group.
The displacement of Advani from the power perch in the party is a clear signal of the generational shift, and it is not surprising that there is the usual board room blood bath. It will not be necessary to envisage at this stage the challenge that Modi will face in the future. At the moment, it is a clear clash between Advani on one side, and Modi, Singh and Jaitley on the other. It is evident that Advani is losing the battle. It is unlikely that the BJP will shed any tears over the passing of the Advani era. The party is certainly grateful to him for making the BJP an important factor in national politics by turning Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute into a political issue.