BJP old guard in UP bat for Advani

Lucknow, June 11 (IANS) The BJP's old guard in Uttar Pradesh, worried over the rise and rise of Narendra Modi, appears to be rallying behind the veteran L.K. Advani who Monday quit from all party posts.

In contrast to those who are siding with the Gujarat chief minister, old timers in the Bharatiya Janata Party have thrown their lot with former deputy prime minister and party patriarch Advani.

This is largely owing to fears that the rise of Modi in the party could mean curtains on their long political careers.

And now that Advani has thrown in the towel, BJP leaders in the electorally crucial state feel the time has come for them to be demanding and forthright.

Echoing the sentiments, Lalji Tandon, the BJP MP from Lucknow and a long-time aide of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, says Advani's decision was "very painful" and there can be no BJP without Advani.

Tandon's comments come amid growing clamour for Modi to contest the next Lok Sabha election from Lucknow, a seat represented by Vajpayee for several years.

In case Modi relents, Tandon could be out of job, his supporters fear.

While refusing to be drawn into "hypothetical questions", Tandon admitted that a BJP minus Advani was akin to comparing Mahatma Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

Kalraj Mishra, a senior party leader and legislator from Lucknow, too seems to be throwing his lot behind Advani.

He said the developments of the past 24 hours -- since Modi was named by the BJP to head the party's next Lok Sabha campaign committee -- show that "Advaniji must be terribly hurt at something".

Mishra told IANS on phone from Mumbai that he tried to speak to Advani on telephone but could not.

He added that thinking of a BJP without the Atal-Advani duo was impossible.

Many in Uttar Pradesh see the reactions of Tandon and Mishra as a ganging up of old rivals of BJP president Rajnath Singh, also from the state, who has thrown his weight behind Modi.

BJP leaders in the state are apprehensive of their future under the new dispensation in the state after Modi aide Amit Shah was appointed in-charge of the state.

With Shah's maiden visit scheduled for June 12, the established leaders here fear they will be edged out by the new age Modi acolytes.

With 80 Lok Sabha seats up for grabs in the state, Modi and Rajnath Singh know that the way to Delhi is through the state and a strategy is being drawn up to make the most of Uttar Pradesh.

"There is a strong wave of support in favour of Modi and our efforts would now be to tap that vote bank," says a senior BJP leader who does not want to be named "as of now".

The fear of Modi takeover of the state unit is now inescapable, some say.

"Despite the war within, the larger goal before us is to ensure that we garner maximum seats from Uttar Pradesh," a leader said, hoping that very soon the dust over the Modi-Advani feud would settle down.

"It can't be settled as both sides have taken an irrevocable stand," he pointed out.

Many here feel that Advani, who played a key role in building the BJP into what it is today nationally, committed harakiri by coming out against the elevation of Modi.

Others feel that leaders taking refuge behind Advani would soon fall in line and realize that Modi was the BJP's future.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

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