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3 Jun 2017

Case 'does not' shut Advani out

TT, New Delhi, June 2: L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi have not turned expendables for the BJP after being charged with conspiracy over the Babri Masjid demolition and Narendra Modi may spring a surprise by fielding one of the veterans for the President's election in July, sources said.
"The Ram Mandir movement is an ideological issue not only for the party but the entire Sangh parivar. To infer that Advani and Joshi stand disqualified because of the charges in the Babri case would be totally wrong. Involvement in the Ram Mandir movement is a badge of honour," a BJP leader said.
Since a special CBI court in Lucknow framed the conspiracy charges last week against Advani, Joshi and others in the 1992 case, a general perception emerged that the leaders cannot be fielded as presidential candidates.
Contrary to the notion, the names of Advani and Joshi have suddenly cropped up as probable nominees, buttressed by arguments that Modi may stun not only party leaders but also put the Opposition in a fix by fielding one of the two patriarchs.
BJP leaders said Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath's visit to Ayodhya a day after the court framed charges against the senior leaders was aimed at underlining the party's commitment to the Ram temple plank.
The BJP leaders said fielding Advani would be seen as a masterstroke by Modi as he would achieve two targets with one stroke - dramatically establish his image as a "magnanimous leader" and, at the same time, break Opposition unity.
Advani commands respect among key Opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar, who will find it very difficult to oppose the veteran's nomination, the BJP leaders said. The Opposition has joined hands to field a consensus candidate but has not named anyone.
If he backs Advani, Modi will be viewed as a large-hearted leader who cares for elders credited with having played a key role in building the party and end the perception that he has sidelined the seniors, the BJP leaders said. It will also be seen as a guru dakshina to Advani who had played a decisive role in the elevation of Modi as Gujarat chief minister and stood by his side when then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted him removed over the 2002 riots.
Advani had, however, opposed the elevation of Modi as prime ministerial candidate ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. "If Modiji proposes Advani's name, everyone would hail him as a magnanimous leader who has chosen to pardon his guru," another BJP leader said.
The RSS, however, would not be very pleased, the sources said. Reason: Advani's 2005 trip to Pakistan during which he described Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a "secular leader" after visiting his mausoleum. "In the RSS, we can tolerate financial corruption but not ideological crimes. Advaniji's comment on Jinnah was a serious ideological deviation", an RSS leader said.
Despite this, BJP leaders hoped the RSS would be benevolent enough to overlook Advani's deviation given his huge contribution in building the party by spearheading the temple movement. The age factor associated with Advani, 90 years, could also work in his favour, another BJP leader said.
The RSS will have no such problems with Joshi, known for his strong ideological commitment. Though not viewed in the stature of Advani, Joshi still enjoys good rapport with many key Opposition leaders. Like Advani, Joshi is also known for his good equations with Mamata and Nitish, who have worked with him in the Vajpayee government.

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