Rajnath stuck between a rock and a hard place
Will BJP president Rajnath Singh convene the meeting of Parliamentary Board tomorrow, that is Friday, the 13th? No one in the BJP is willing to commit on a date, tomorrow later, say 15 or 17 September for the Board meeting slated to announce Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate. Sources in fact are not sure when and whether this meeting will be called at all.
Frenetic efforts by the entire top brass of the RSS, led by Sarsanghchalak Mohanrao Madhukarrao Bhagwat, Suresh (aka Bhaiyaji) Joshi, Suresh Soni, Madandas Devi as also their BJP proxies Nitin Gadkari and Rajnath himself have been going on since September 7 to persuade LK Advani to fall in line and not just endorse but propose Modi’s name in the Board meeting. Each one of these leaders have been going over individually and in groups to LK Advani’s 30, Prithviraj Road residence to make the old man see reason in Modi’s candidature. These leaders have also spoken to other top BJP leaders. Leader of Opposition in Parliament Sushma Swaraj has argued on the same lines as Advani opposing the announcement of Modi as the PM candidate at least for now. It is also common knowledge that Murli Manohar Joshi is equally opposed to Modi’s candidature. In fact at Goa National executive of the party, where Rajnath discussed and then later announced Modi as campaign committee chairman, while Advani pointedly stayed back in Delhi to demonstrate his disenchantment, Joshi and Sushma spoke in the meeting opposing the announcement without Advani’s endorsement. Then there is Ananth Kumar, who has avoided speaking anything publicly but is perceived to be in Advani camp. That makes four. The Parliamentary Board comprises of 12 members. Of these Atal Bihari Vajpayee is a permanent absentee and thus a non-voting member, on account of his health condition. Narendra Modi himself is a member of the Board, but it is presumed that he will avoid attending a meeting discussing him in the tradition of parliamentary propriety. Assuming that Modi will maintain such a decorum, the effective strength of the Board will be reduced to 10. This time round Advani has declared his resolve to attend the Board meeting and oppose the proposal. Thus in the Board Rajnath can rely at the moment only on five votes in favour of Modi, who are Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari and Ram Lal. Since he will be presiding over the meeting, Rajnath should only be giving his casting vote and in this case the dice appeared loaded equally on both sides with four-four. There is only one member Thawarchand Gehlot who has not opened his cards yet. Ordinarily Gehlot should be voting with Rajnath and Ram Lal. But it worth remembering how Gehlot played Advani game in February to scuttle last minute Gadkari’s chances of getting re-elected.
Therefore the safest course for Rajnath is to consult his astrologer-cum-political adviser-cum party spokesman Sudhanshu Trivedi for an auspicious day and make the announcement, by passing the Board. Under BJP constitution he is fully empowered to do this. The only catch is that all along even till last week Rajnath has been saying that the decision will be taken by the Parliamentary Board at an appropriate time. What will he say now?