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The Jaitley factor, not Namo, behind BJP dissent

Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley behind resentment against Gujarat CM.

MADHAV NALAPAT  New Delhi | 14th Sep 2013

BJP supporters celebrate after Narendra Modi was declared BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate in New Delhi on Friday. PTI

enior leaders in the BJP say privately that it was not opposition to Narendra Modi but disquiet at the Prime Ministerial nominee's perceived reliance on the Leader of the Opposition (Rajya Sabha) Arun Jaitley "that caused Sushma Swaraj and M.M. Joshi to cast their lot initially with L.K. Advani, who has his own personal reasons for opposing Modi". These leaders claim that in the hundred-odd days since Modi was anointed the Campaign Committee chief, his absence from Delhi led to the Jaitley group taking advantage of the Modi connection to grab power from the other Delhi-based leaders of the party, including general secretary Ananth Kumar, Leader of the Opposition (Lok Sabha) Sushma Swaraj, former BJP presidents Nitin Gadkari and Venkaiah Naidu, as well as senior leader M.M. Joshi. They, together with other leaders such as Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha, share with Sushma Swaraj an antipathy to Jaitley and claim that this opinion is held by BJP president Rajnath Singh as well.

Only Advani is seen as opposed to Modi per se, rather than because of the Jaitley factor. The BJP patriarch apparently believes that Modi should have "stepped aside for him as he himself did for a more secular face, Atalji", according to a BJP leader sympathetic to Advani.

"Arun Jaitley is an expert at manipulating the media and planting reports against leaders he dislikes," alleged a senior BJP leader, who was once a part of the Vajpayee Cabinet. Another added that "Jaitley is too cosy with the Congress, especially its top leadership" and that during his time as Law Minister, "help was given to the Congress, which went against the party's interest". This charge was refuted by a source close to Jaitley, who said that on the contrary, "Arunji has been the foremost critic of the Congress and its leadership" and that claims that he helped the Congress are "lies told by jealous people".

Within the top echelons of the BJP, there is a widespread perception that "Arun Jaitley is Narendra Modi's single window in Delhi", in the words of a senior office-bearer, who added that "Jaitley has ensured that those opposed to him get denied meetings with Modiji". Two senior office-bearers vented their view that Modi's acolyte Amit Shah "only listens to Jaitley and takes instructions from him". According to a Jaitley-friendly office-bearer, this is because "Narendra Modi respects Arun Jaitley's opinion and knows that his (Jaitley's) advice is best for the party in UP". He pointed to the "several states where Arunji's superior management made the BJP win despite strong opposition from Congress".

According to a senior leader in the party, even key RSS functionaries such as Dharmendra Pradhan and Suresh Soni are "under Jaitley's influence". They point to the fact that "Subramanian Swamy's induction into the BJP was delayed for six months even though the RSS and L.K. Advani as well as Nitin Gadkari joined hands with Narendra Modi and Sushma Swaraj in supporting Swamy" and that "only when Jaitley stopped opposing Swamy, was the Janata Party chief inducted". A leader opposed to Jaitley claims that the Leader of the Opposition (RS) is supporting Modi "in the hope that after the elections he will not get the support needed to form the government". At that point, Jaitley will "step forward as the secular choice", a la Vajpayee, "as the man closest to Narendra Modi". Those close to Jaitley say that the BJP leader has no such ambition but would be "happy to serve under Narendra Modi" in any future government.

 
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