BJP tonight decided to field LK Advani from his Gandhinagar constituency in Gujarat, overruling his desire to shift to Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh reflecting the tensions between him and Narendra Modi.
Modi, the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, himself will contest from a second seat -- Vadodara in Gujarat -- apart from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
Hectic discussions preceded the decision on Advani at the day-long meeting of the BJP Central Election Committee from which the 86-year-old party patriarch kept away, citing reasons that he did not want to be part of confabulations involving his constituency.
Advani had conveyed to party president Rajnath Singh that he wanted to shift to Bhopal from Gandhinagar which he has represented five times in the Lok Sabha. It was not clear whether Advani had consented to the party decision. Late night, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari went to his residence in a bid to persuade him to accept Gandhinagar.
Advani had insisted that he should have the right to choose his constituency like many other leaders who have been allocated their preferred seats, sources said.
Ever since the elevation of Modi in the party hierarchy, Advani has been sulking and his desire to shift from Gandhinagar is seen as a reflection of the unease in his relationship with Modi. At the meeting, Modi is believed to have insisted that Advani should contest again from Gandhinagar, lest a message went that all is not well in the party.
Advani has represented Gandhinagar in the 10th Lok Sabha (1991-96), 12th Lok Sabha (1998-99), 13th Lok Sabha (1999-2004), 14th Lok Sabha (2004-09) and the current 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14). The list of 60 candidates finalised by the party today, yesteryear dreamgirl Hema Mali got a ticket from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh while Olympian medalist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore from Jaipur (Rural).
Announcing the list of candidates, BJP leader Thawarchand Gehlot refused to answer whether Advani had accepted the decision to field him from Gandhinagar. "I have told you about the decisions taken," he kept repeating before winding up the media interaction.
There were also theories doing the rounds that Advani was reluctant to contest from Gandhinagar, either because he feared sabotage or did not want to be seen as being dependent on Modi for victory.
Soon after the CEC meeting, Modi went to RSS headquarters here to meet Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat in a bid to clear the air over Advani's candidature and seeking his good offices in the matter. The list finalised by the party today included 21 candidates each from Gujarat and Rajasthan, 15 from Uttar Pradesh, three from Bihar, two from Maharashtra and one each from Kerala, Jharkhand, Andaman and Nicobar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
The party also announced 15 candidates for Odisha Assembly elections and 17 for Arunachal Assembly polls.