Sushma Swaraj rules herself out but BJP chief race remains open

Sushma Swaraj

The unease in the BJP over giving a second presidential term to Nitin Gadkari has got rival factions pitching Sushma Swaraj against former president Rajnath Singh as their choice of alternates even as Swaraj personally ruled herself out of the race.

A section of the party and RSS, which wants a second term for Gadkari, have suggested Rajnath as a compromise candidate to the disgruntled section led by L K Advani. The party patriarch, however, in return was learnt to have pitchforked Sushma Swaraj.

"The issue is about consensus. When they have alternatively offered to explore consensus on Rajnath, what is the harm exploring consensus on Sushma Sawaraj," confided an Advani camp leader, without explaining whom does he mean by "they", which is believed to be RSS and its footsoldiers backing Gadkari.

Though sources refrained from elaborating which side took the initiative first to propose alternatives, they sought to highlight that this delay was an indication of the depth of unease within the BJP to continue with Gadkari despite RSS's support to him.

While these proposals and counter-proposals remained to be resolved, Swaraj ruled herself out of the race. "I do not know from where you are getting this. It is absolutely not true," she told reporters.

"We have a party president — Gadkariji," she said in response to queries about presidential elections in the BJP. But she didn't clarify whether he will get a second term.

Ananth Kumar, secretary of Parliamentary Board, the party's apex decision-making body, said the notification for elections to the post will be declared in a day or two.

Sources sought to play down Swaraj's remarks, saying she could not be expected to say she was in the race. But if she really meant it, they added, it will be a serious setback to Advani who had mustered the courage to suggest RSS an alternative to Gadkari.

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