BJP goes into a huddle
 over post-poll alliances

BJP goes into a huddle
 over post-poll alliances

Leaders discuss likely cabinet and roles for Advani, Swaraj, Joshi

By Sonny Abraham

Published: Thu 15 May 2014, 9:34 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:51 PM

For the second day on Wednesday, the top leadership of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held discussions among themselves on the likely political scenarios that could unfold after the results of the Lok Sabha elections are declared on May 16 against the background of the fact that all exit polls have predicted a huge win for the party.

After a series of meetings among the leaders in Delhi, BJP president Rajnath Singh and senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari flew to Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, for talks with its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

That Modi will have a major say in all the decisions that will be taken, if the exit polls turn out to be correct, was evident from the fact that the talks were taking place on his home turf in Gandhinagar and not in the national capital as would be normally expected. Modi has been the chief minister of Gujarat since late 2001. A notable absentee at the meeting was Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, who might have, at one time, fancied her own chances for the top job and now finds herself a bit on the sidelines, without any major role in the high-profile campaign that Modi had unleashed during the elections.

Singh and Gadkari were among those who met Swaraj at her residence in Delhi on Wednesday before she flew off for an engagement in Bhopal.

Gadkari and others have also been in touch with veteran BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani, 86, who has never really hidden his own prime ministerial ambitions in the past but is now reconciling himself to a lesser role.

The former deputy prime minister, who was the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2009 elections which it lost, is unlikely to serve in a Modi government, given his seniority, and there is speculation that he might be considered for the position of speaker of the Lok Sabha, which ranks high in protocol rankings. Another possibility is that Advani would be made the chairman of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Gadkari told journalists that an appropriate decision on Advani would be made at the appropriate time. The party will also have to tread carefully in deciding on the assignment for another veteran, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was upset when he had to make way in Varanasi for Modi, who wanted to contest from there as his second constituency after Vadodara in Gujarat. He is also several years senior to Modi in the party set-up and would have to be shown due deference in such matters.

Swaraj might be given an important portfolio, with media reports speculating that it could be either external affairs or defence.

She said the meetings with Singh and Gadkari were only in the nature of “courtesy calls”.

Advani and Swaraj were amongst those in the party who were reportedly against the idea of making Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, its prime ministerial candidate. Apart from all this, there is also the question whether Singh himself would join the government or continue as party president. Singh told reporters that he would convene a meeting of the party’s senior leaders when all such issues will be discussed and decided upon.

Apart from fleshing out Modi’s cabinet, the party is also reaching out to potential allies, just in case.

Feelers have been sent to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) of her Orissa counterpart Naveen Patnaik.

Asked by reporters on Wednesday, both leaders, interestingly, did not rule out such a possibility. Both have in the past been allies of the BJP.

All that Patnaik would say was that his party had not given any thought to the question and that there were no talks on with the BJP at this stage. Jayalalithaa said she was waiting for the results on May 16 and declined to make any further comment on the elections.

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