Advani looking for a chance to draw level with Modi
Advani perhaps found a second chance to draw level when the BJP decided to field him from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, from where he has been winning since 1991 (except 1996 when he did not contest). He preferred to contest from Bhopal where even the sitting MP offered him to fight from there. Certain sources in the BJP even said that Advani's presence in Bhopal would maximise the party's votes in Madhya Pradesh, something that Modi's candidature from Varanasi would do in Uttar Pradesh.
Here is how LK Advani has performed in elections since 1991 when he first contested from Gandhinagar:
In 2009, Advani defeated Suresh Patel of the Congress by 1,21,747 votes (vote share 55%)
In 2004, Advani defeated Congress's GM Thakor by 2,17,138 votes (vote share 61%)
In 1999, Advani defeated Congress's TN Seshan by 1,88,944 votes (vote share 61%)
In 1998, Advani defeated Congress's PK Datta by 2,76,701 votes (vote share 58%)
In 1996, Advani didn't contest.
In 1991, Advani defeated Congress's GI Patel by 1,25,679 votes (vote share 57%)
Real story might be something else
But the real story might be something else. The constituency of Bhopal is adjacent to Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh from where another BJP leader Sushma Swaraj is contesting this year's election.
Ploy to form an anti-Modi front in MP?
Sushma, known to be close to Advani, also had reservation over Modi's nomination as the prime ministerial candidate and both these senior leaders have a tilt towards Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. They have also tried to project Chouhan as an alternative to Modi in the past, citing his 'secular, inclusive and liberal' image. So there could be a hidden agenda to stitch a front inside a front to take on the pro-Modi group after the polls.
The recipe was to keep the chances of factional feud alive.
But the BJP has perhaps understood the hidden ploy of the Advani-Sushma camp and has decided to keep the two leaders' constituencies apart so that New Delhi doesn't find an alternative power centre in Madhya Pradesh in case the NDA returns to power.
LK Advani's victory margin in Gandhinagar came down by 95,000 votes in 2009
All this is part and parcel of power-politics. But the question that rattles the political observers is that why Advani is still trying to make the headlines when the verdict is clearly out that his days are gone now?
Advani lost the plot the moment RSS backed Modi
Power is addictive, we all know. But Advani's plight lies in the fact that his old ploy of using his loyalists to take on his opponents in the party has started to boomerang now. His decline had started ever since he had praised Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Pakistan in an effort towards his Vajpayeefication and his subsequent duel with the RSS was finally sealed last year when the latter backed Modi as the party's prime ministerial candidate.
The moment Advani lost this battle of prestige and the younger leadership overtook him, he was desperate to minimise the gap so that he could somehow bring into play his old factional politics.
But this time, it is perhaps too late for him. The irony is that the same Modi whom he had backed after the Gujarat riots in 2002 in the face of Vajpayee's displeasure has emerged into his biggest threat in the party. But Advani has little support today to tackle this challenge, thanks to the changing nature of politics. There was a time when Advani used his loyalists to ensure that his own rise was smooth and it had offended his aides. Today, history has come a full circle and Advani has remained a lonely figure. An individual always loses a battle against an organisation and Advani was a clear loser in his fight with the RSS.
Should BJP have fielded Advani at all?
But when viewing things from BJP's perspective, the party shouldn't have entertained Advani's candidature at all, leave alone his preference. At 86 and the proponent of a political ideology which has little utility now, Advani today is a spent force and can only stage tamasha time and again, causing inconvenience to the party.
It is said his own supporters in Gandhinagar aren't a happy lot and now with he himself also reluctant to fight from this seat, one can well imagine how things will shape up in the constituency on April 30, when Gujarat will go to the Lok Sabha election.
Advani's disguised attempt to return to the race of PM?
Advani's revolt over the candidature perhaps is a faint attempt to return to the race of prime minister for sources close to him feel that the Modi wave isn't that strong now and the BJP could ultimately fall short of the predicted number of seats in the Lok Sabha election. Advani expects that his name could still emerge as an alternative to Modi but such an outcome is very unlikely.
Whether it is Gandhinagar or Bhopal, the BJP has little to gain from the party. It is yet honouring the patriarch by offering him a safe shelter under Modi but the latter isn't ready to admit his irrelevance.