reputation which made his National Democratic Alliance ( NDA) colleague, Bihar Chief minister Nitish Kumar, keep him out of the election campaign in the state lest he scare away the Muslims.

It is to erase that image that he has recently re

ferred to the need for expanding the educational facilities for Muslims and stressed that his plans envisage progress without ” discrimination”. But what was most noteworthy was his observation in his blog that he sought ” forgiveness for any hurt” that he ” may have caused”. For a ” modern- day Nero”, to quote the Supreme Courts description of Modi who had dismissed the 2002 riots, which claimed more than 1,000 lives, as ” stray incidents” in a letter to the president of India, to seek forgiveness is astounding. If anything underlines his intention to move from Gujarat to the national stage, this is it.

For the BJP, however, the sudden emergence of two PM wannabes can be problematic. For a start, the party is wary of Advanis ambition. In fact, it had tried to sideline him by making him the leader of the parliamentary party, a post created for him, when he insisted after the BJPs 2009 defeat on continuing to be the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha till 2014.

The subsequent selections of Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley as leaders of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, respectively, were a sign that the BJP wanted to usher in GenNext. Now, Advanis sudden decision to try to be in the limelight will put the party as well as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS) in a quandary, especially considering that the saffron patriarchs had eased Advani out of the party chiefs post because of his praise for Jinnah in Pakistan in 2005.

It is difficult to say which of the two, Advani or Modi, the BJP and, more importantly, the RSS will choose to be the person to succeed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In any event, the process of selection will not be easy, for it will mean marginalising two others, Sushma Swaraj and Jaitley, who must have considered themselves as the main contenders till Advani and Modi sprung their surprises. The recent observation of a saffron journalist, therefore, that the ” Delhi 4″, viz Sushma Swaraj, Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar, will side with Advani against Modi is significant. Besides, it has to be remembered that the RSS will not be too pleased with Modis new, liberal, even pro- Muslim stance, for it will frustrate its game plan of turning India into a theocratic Hindu rashtra, which has long been a saffron dream. It is no secret that the RSS was never happy with the moderate Atal Behari Vajpayee and did not like Advanis recent transformation from the fiery rath yatri of 1990 into a paler version of Vajpayee. Irrespective of who beats whom in the race, the fact that no one in the BJP is talking about building the temple any more means the party has realised that the pseudo- religious card it played during and after Advanis first rath yatra has no place in what will probably be his last. – IANS

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