Modi prepares for broader ground

If the fear of defeat is forcing BJP patriarch L.K. Advani to look for a safe seat outside his Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency in Gujarat, state chief minister Narendra Modi intends to venture out and fight from Uttar Pradesh. The proposed move to contest from UP is being seen as Mr Modi’s attempt to send a signal that his “charisma” is not confined to his home state.
The Lok Sabha berths Mr Modi’s camp is looking at include Lucknow, Varanasi and Allahabad.
Meanwhile, as Mr Modi gets ready for Mission 2014, a battle between him and his bete noire, Mr Advani, continues to rage. While Mr Modi draws his support from within the party, Mr Advani is relying on his NDA card.
Sources said that three of Mr Advani’s men, regarded in the party as “discredited advisers” — a senior journalist, a former BJP member and an economic expert — have been quietly pressed into action.
While the senior journalist is holding parleys with Muslim intellectuals and like-minded political leaders, the former BJP member is trying to woo Trinamul leader and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The economic expert is in touch with the BJP’s allies and other regional outfits, sources said. They are trying to rally forces in Mr Advani’s support.
That the BJP patriarch was trying to emerge as the NDA’s face became somewhat evident when on Wednesday he spoke to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav asking them not to pull out.
The signal was clear. Mr Advani has begun projecting himself as the leader who can hold the NDA together, but only if the BJP refrains from projecting Mr Modi as the PM candidate. Reports indicate that the JD(U) is planning to pull out on the Modi issue.
So far the JD(U) is the only ally that seems to be responding to Mr Advani while the Akali Dal has given clear indications of its support for Mr Modi. Some feel the Shiv Sena will eventually join the Modi camp.
Sensing that Uttar Pradesh, with 80 Lok Sabha seats, would be the main battlefield for the 2014 polls, Mr Modi and his close aide, Mr Amit Shah, have began preparing a blueprint. At this juncture the BJP has only 10 Lok Sabha seats in UP, is ridden with factionalism and lacks a leader with mass appeal. Mr Advani has been trying to prop up Mr Varun Gandhi as the BJP’s face in UP.
Mr Modi’s entry into UP will also unsettle the old guard in the state. This particular set of old-timers, supposed to be in the Advani camp, includes Lalji Tandon and Kalraj Mishra, among others. These leaders have gone on record saying that “there can be no BJP without Advani”.

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