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LK Advani chooses Gandhinagar

Friday, 21 March 2014 - 10:00am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

'All-is-well' statements end 24-hour drama after BJP allotted seat to senior leader who instead wanted to fight from Bhopal.

BJP and its senior leader LK Advani ended a 24-hour drama over the latter's constituency for the upcoming elections after a series of meetings, long telephonic consultations, placating gestures and intervention from the party's ideologue, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In the end, Advani conceded to contest from the Gandhinagar constituency.

The BJP had announced Advani's candidature for the constituency on Wednesday but the senior leader had expressed a desire to contest instead from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. Just a few days ago, the BJP had closed a messy chapter over the Varanasi seat for PM candidate Narendra Modi despite reservations from sitting MP Murli Manohar Joshi. Similarly, the party is facing flak from senior leader Jaswant Singh over the recommendation of Sona Ram Chaudhury to contest from Barmer because Singh's son had defeated Chaudhury in 2013 assembly elections. The party is also facing criticism from cadre in Uttar Pradesh over the manner in which tickets are being given to candidates.

The BJP leadership therefore wanted to avoid any stick situation over Advani's constituency. Early on Thursday, the BJP leadership broke its silence on Advani's desire to contest from Bhopal, saying the party will respect whatever choice he makes. Singh, who was in Chennai, said he had consulted members of the parliamentary board and Central Election Committee on the issue before conveying the party's views to Advani. The formula worked out by the party leaders on Thursday, after the RSS is understood to have intervened, would give Advani a way to save face to vindicate his position that he should have a say on his seat. At the same time, Advani abided by the party's decision.

The party's decision was conveyed to Advani in the evening, minutes before Singh issued a statement. "It is the unanimous view of the party that the choice of where to contest from should be left to Shri Advaniji himself," Singh said in the statement. In less than an hour, a statement, issued on Advani's behalf, said that he has decided to contest the 2014 general election from Gandhinagar. Advani said he was "deeply touched by the gesture" of his party colleagues and that he has been "integrally connected" with Gujarat since migrating from Karachi. Earlier, Advani had said that if other senior party leaders could decide on their seat, he too should be given such an option, party sources said.

Advani also mentioned that BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had met him on Thursday morning and emphasized that the people of Gujarat were keen that Advani represent Gandhinagar, which he has been winning for the past 16 years, once again.

Besides Modi, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu visited him. On Wednesday night Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari had been asked to convey the CEC's decision to Advani, who had skipped the meetings of the party's parliamentary board and CEC. However, the senior leader just listened and did not say much, party sources said.

Advani had been maintaining that he was keen on contesting from Gandhinagar, from where he had first fought in 1991. However, there were apprehensions that he may face the prospect of dealing with some unrest within the cadre. His reluctance to accept the party decision to name Modi PM candidate had upset the rank and file in Gujarat, sources said. Advani had skipped the party's Goa conclave, where Modi was made chief of BJP's campaign committee and later skipped Modi's anointment as PM candidate in Delhi in September. The bitterness had showed signs of allaying later. Advani showered praises on Modi in his valedictory address at the BJP's national council in January.

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