Advani is believed to have offered is resignation as Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha but the party persuaded him to stay on. He was the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in the elections and was projected as a strong and decisive leader.
The BJP lost no occasion to compare Advani, “the iron man”, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was accused of being weak and ineffectual. Advani himself accused Singh of taking his cues from Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The strategy didn’t pay off and on May 16 it was Singh who was king. Advani accepted BJP’s defeat with grace and has not given a major statement since then. Political analysts say he now must play the role of a guide and stop being the BJP’s helmsman.
Is it time for BJP to look at life beyond Advani? Who are the BJP leaders who can replace Advani?
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, party general secretary Arun Jaitley, party president Rajnath Singh and Vidisha MP Sushma Swaraj are seen as possible successors to Advani. Each has strengths and weaknesses but can they equal Advani’s stature in the party?
Guha said BJP was passing through “transition time” and till there is consensus Advani would be projected as its leader in the short run.
“I say short run because who knows what names may emerge in the long run. There is (Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister) Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has run his government efficiently and is not controversial in the way Modi is. There may be yet other names when we consider a successor to Advani,” said Guha.
But the issue goes beyond Advani: the BJP has to reflect what kind of party it wants to be, said Dasgupta. The elections were a “political defeat” for the BJP because it lost out its traditional political constituencies and now has two alternatives to deal with the crisis.
“One is to retreat into the ghetto (return to Hindutva) and take comfort in the insularity. Otherwise you go what is called modern, on which views may differ. I think it is time the BJP has to look beyond the symbols with which it was identified in the eighties and nineties,” said Dasgupta.