RSS nudge makes LK Advani agree to contest from Gandhinagar

After playing hard ball for over 24 hours, BJP patriarch LK Advani finally relented to abide by the party`s decision to field him from Gandhinagar constituency in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

By Ajith Vijay Kumar | Updated: Mar 20, 2014, 20:09 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Ajith Vijay Kumar

New Delhi: After playing hard ball for over 24 hours, BJP patriarch LK Advani finally relented to abide by the party`s decision to field him from Gandhinagar constituency in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The 86-year-old leader made the announcement shortly after party president Rajnath Singh issued a statement saying that it was for Advani to choose whether to contest from Gandhinagar or Bhopal, seeking to end a 24-hour drama that exposed the simmering tensions between him and Narendra Modi.

Advani, who has been sulking since yesterday over the party decision to field him from Gandhinagar against his wish of Bhopal, said Modi came to him this morning and "emphasised that the people of Gujarat are keen that I represent Gandhinagar Lok Sabha once again."

"I have represented the state both in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Having represented Gandhinagar constituency in the Lok Sabha since 1991, I have decided to contest the 2014 general elections from Gandhinagar itself," Advani said in the statement, bringing to an end the raging row over his constituency.

Advani had been adamant that he wants to contest from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and not from Gandhinagar, a seat he has held for the last 16 years. His aversion to trying his luck from the capital of Gujarat was being attributed to his fear that the local party machinery there would not support him wholeheartedly given his edgy relationship with Narendra Modi.

The BJP top brass had to put all its might to convince Advani to go by what the party had decided for him.
Leading from the front in the endeavour was prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The Gujarat Chief Minister drove down to Advani`s residence this morning to convince him to stick to Gandhinagar.

Reports said that Modi requested Advani to contest from Gandhinagar, saying that his shifting to Bhopal would send out a wrong message.

Later, other senior party leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu met Advani separately to bring him around to the party`s stand.

Finally, it took a call from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for Adavni to abandon his Bhopal plan and go by the party`s wish.
The open discord over seat distribution had the BJP worried with several leaders coming out saying that there are no differences and all issues will be sorted out amicably.

The entire issue is seen as the latest round in the ongoing friction between Advani and Modi that began after Modi was pitchforked into prominence in the party, eventually leading to his nomination as the prime ministerial candidate.

Trouble started after Advani, who was earlier keen to contest from Gandhinagar, a seat he has held for 16 years, suddenly expressed his wish to contest from Bhopal. He reportedly changed his mind after his name did not figure in the first three list of party candidates announced by the central election committee.

Advani is said to have felt that he was being deliberately ignored by the party and given his equation with Modi, he feared the worst.

As a alternative he expressed his wish to move out of Modi`s Gujarat to his confidante Shivraj Singh Chauhan`s Madhya Pradesh. In his calculation, it would have been a much safer bet given the level of trust he enjoys with Chauhan.

Also, by winning from Bhopal, Advani hoped to send out the message that he is not dependent on Modi.

Arguing for his case, Advani is said to have argued with party president Rajnath Singh that since most senior leaders were allowed to contest from the seats of their choice, his wish to contest from Madhya Pradesh should be respected as well.

Rajnath is currently out of Delhi. An official statement is expected after he reaches Delhi later today.