BJP gets ready for 2014 as Advani, Modi back together

BJP veteran leader L K Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi sat next to each other at a crucial parliamentary board meeting.

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday appeared to have put its internal rift behind, with veteran leader L K Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi sitting next to each other at a crucial parliamentary board meeting.

The meeting was called to strategise on the Lok Sabha elections and came less than a month after the patriarch`s revolt of the Gujarat CM`s elevation as the 2014 poll campaign panel chief.

Advani and Modi sat side by side during the three-hour meeting of the parliamentary board, the highest decision-making body of BJP, and subsequent meeting of its members with party general secretaries.

Sources claimed that Advani`s body language was "positive" throughout the meetings. Advani gave suggestions on a couple of issues during the board meeting and appeared to endorse the views expressed by Modi and others, they said.

"We have unshackled ourselves from our internal problems. The issue is now to take on the Congress on issues of corruption, price rise, lack of economic growth and internal security," a party leader said.

The attendance of the meeting by the two leaders together assumes significance as Advani had revolted against Modi`s appointment as Campaign Committee Chairman and resigned from all the party posts on June 10. He took it back after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat intervened.

The two meetings discussed ways to take on the Congress-led government in run up to the elections.

The issues that figured in these meetings included alleged "misuse" of CBI against the backdrop of probe report into Ishrat killing and government`s decision to promulgate Ordinance on Food security.

"Ideas were invited and discussed by the party top brass from the general secretaries," a source said.

The meeting also approved the extensive use of social media in the 2014 General Elections, sources said, adding the appointment of IT professionals to drive the campaign has also been cleared.

The alleged misuse of CBI by the Centre was discussed in the parliamentary board meeting, the sources said, citing the CBI chargesheet in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case as the latest case.

Though Modi and then Gujarat home minister Amit Shah have not been named in the chargesheet, BJP has objected to the document for describing the encounter as "fake" and charging that Jahan and three others were drugged and killed in cold-blood.

"The parliamentary board discussed the misuse of CBI and how Congress-led government is using it as political tool. It is using the agency against the Opposition leaders. We strongly condemn it," BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar said.

The Food Security Ordinance approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday was also discussed. BJP is opposed to the Bill in its present form and will press for following the Chhattisgarh Food Security Act which covers 90 per cent of the population.

Though the much-expected announcement of leaders who will be a part of the Election Campaign Committee was not announced today, Modi himself has begun the exercise to reach out to the people and party workers from different parts of the country.

Modi will address around 1,500 party workers of Bihar through video-conferencing tomorrow from Ahmedabad. He had conducted similar exercises successfully in Gujarat during the Assembly Elections in December.

He will also be visiting Puri on July 16 to participate in a party programme and interact with BJP workers. The Gujarat chief minister was to visit Andhra Pradesh on July 27 for a similar exercise but is likely to postpone it to August due to the Panchayat Elections in the state.

Modi`s recent visit to Mumbai was also a part of the same plan of reaching out to prospective voters and workers.

"Who all are made a part of the Election Campaign Committee is immaterial. Modi`s style of functioning is well-known. In Gujarat all the action is around him. Same will be the case with this committee," a leader said.

The BJP parliamentary board is meeting again on July 8 to discuss the plans of reaching out to the people ahead of the Assembly polls in five states and the Lok Sabha polls due in 2014.

In today`s meeting, the Parliamentary Board discussed the roadmap for the election campaign. A "vikas patra (development paper)" on the achievements of the erstwhile NDA government and an "aarop patra (chargesheet)" on the failures of the UPA government will be prepared and taken to the people.

Meetings with groups of workers from the booth level upwards will be held in phases by the central leaders.

The parliamentary board also expressed concern over the slow pace of relief and rescue operations in flood-affected Uttarakhand. "We demand that the government should take immediate steps to look for those still missing and to sanction Rs 5 lakh to the families of those who died in the floods," Kumar said.

Countrywide prayer meetings at tehsil and district levels will be organised for those who lost their lives. The party is also collecting funds from people for the victims.

Nitin Gadkari, who is on a visit to Norway, and Murli Manohar Joshi were not present in today`s meeting.

(With PTI inputs)