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What to do with LK Advani? Narendra Modi's unresolved headache

Thursday, 15 May 2014 - 9:00am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

BJP veteran may not be interested in ministerial portfolio

30 Prithviraj road, the nerve centre of political activity in BJP in 2009, is like a quiet retreat now. NDA working chairman LK Advani sits in his room reading Will Durant's "The Case For India".

Outside, there is feverish speculation about the role party elders -- Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi -- would play in a Narendra Modi regime. Some media persons wait with cameras at the entrance of Advani’s residence. But, Advani is maintaining a stoic silence.

The flurry of political activity has shifted to Gandhinagar, where Modi met party president Rajnath Singh, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari. According to party sources, the meeting was called to work out modalities after the results were announced on May 16.

After May 12, Singh, Gadkari and Ram Lal, met Advani, while some other leaders spoke on the phone. Gadkari had a three-hour meeting with Advani at his residence on Tuesday, a day after he met Modi in Gandhinagar. He also had a two-hour meeting with Joshi the same day.

Gadkari did most of the talking while Advani listened giving out little about what was on his mind, sources said.

It is unlikely that Advani, a deputy prime minister in the Vajpayee regime and party's prime ministerial candidate in 2009, would be keen on a ministerial portfolio. The party veteran, who at 86 fought his Lok Sabha battle from Gandhinagar for the sixth time, may also not be wanting a role bestowed as an obligation on him.

Modi, too, would prefer a cabinet of juniors rather than seniors. At the same time, in the moment of victory, the BJP would not want to be seen being ungracious towards its senior leaders. It would also prefer to take a “collective” decision on the role it envisages for its senior leaders.

While Advani and Joshi have hinted that they were ready for any role the party bestowed on them, neither the two leaders nor the party have made any concrete proposals.

“As far as the roles of veteran leaders are concerned, I will call a party meeting to which they will be invited. After thorough discussions with all big leaders, we will decide what role will be played by which person,” Singh told reporters at Ahmedabad airport on his way to Gandhinagar for a meeting with Modi.

Joshi, who reluctantly shifted his election battle to Kanpur vacating Varanasi for the party’s prime ministerial candidate, is understood to have asked RSS last week to ensure that senior party leaders of the party are given respectable positions in a Modi regime.

Sources said the party would like to resolve this issue before it gets into the exercise of formation of a Modi cabinet. While exit polls point towards the likelihood of a Modi-led government, the exact shape of the next government could depend on the numbers.

As of now, the party is keeping all its options open. Party leaders are in touch with Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, which could extend support if the NDA runs short of numbers. However, BJP general secretary Amit Shah has anticipated a 290-305 for the NDA.

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