'Advani wanted Modi to become poll panel chief in 2009'

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New Delhi, June 28: While political pundits continue to analyse the actual reason behind veteran BJP leader L K Advani's strong objection to elevating Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the party's poll campaign chief for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a close aide of Advani reportedly said that it was the same leader who had backed Modi to become the chief of the campaign committee in 2009 but could not win over Rajnath Singh, who was the president of the BJP then as well.

The episode doesn't end here, either. According to the report, Singh had apparently spoken to Advani much before the Goa national executive earlier this month and he had suggested that along with Modi, former party chief Nitin Gadkari should head the poll committee.


The proposal was, however, set aside by the party. Finally, everything fell flat at the Goa national executive after Modi's elevation was formally endorsed and the grand-old man of the BJP made a mess of his moves.

The euphoria in the BJP had a far-reaching effect and saw the exit of the JD(U) from the NDA. Advani reportedly said later that had Gadkari also been named along with Modi, the JD(U) wouldn't have taken the drastic step.

Advani was not happy with Modi 's elevation not because he doesn't like Modi personally. The was more against the strategy of projecting Modi as the face of the party for the 2014 polls. He and his followers felt that popularity alone doesn't guarantee electoral success and acceptability, too, is an important aspect if not the most crucial one.

Three examples were cited to show the importance of acceptability over popularity, particularly in today's multi-party polity. The first such incident happened in 1977 when Morarji Desai was chosen as the prime minister in the first non-Congress government at the Centre even though leaders like Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram were more popular but not acceptable. Desai was more acceptable than popular.

In 1995, Advani was the more popular leader but yet Atal Bihari Vajpeyee ended up becoming the prime minister every time the BJP came to the power. In fact, the BJP succeeded to lead a major alliance (not a pale one as it is today).

And finally Manmohan Singh, the current prime minister. He might not be the most popular in the party but yet in 2004, when party chief Sonia Gandhi refused to become the PM, Singh emerged as the consensus candidate because of his acceptability.

Advani reportedly wanted to go without a prime ministerial face in 2014 Lok Sabh elections for he feared that if Modi was made the face of the party, then the Congress and others could turn the tables and corner the BJP over the secular-communal debate. But the BJP could have gathered much strength and go to the offensive if Modi was not at the helm of affairs.

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