BJP today plunged into a crisis with patriarch L K Advani resigning from all the party posts in protest against the elevation of Narendra Modi as campaign committee chief, a development that stunned the party and left its allies in the NDA in discomfort.
85-year-old Advani, a founder member of the BJP and the tallest leader after Atal Bihari Vajpayee, resigned from all main fora of the party--Parliamentary Board, National Executive and Election Committee, a day after Modi was anointed BJP's campaign chief for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
In a strongly-worded resignation letter to party President Rajnath Singh, who announced the appointment of Modi as Chairman of the election campaign committee yesterday in the BJP National Executive, Advani rued that the BJP was no longer the "same idealistic party" created by Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Deendayal Upadhyaya, Nanaji Deshmukh and Vajpayee.
Singh rushed to Advani's residence for a meeting and is understood to have urged him to take back his resignation.
Later he tweeted that he has not accepted it.
The dramatic development prompted leaders to rush to Advani's residence in a bid to pacify him but he showed no signs of relenting. Advani turned down the pleas of senior leaders including Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar to withdraw the resignation, sources said.
The party chief was also in a huddle with leaders including Arun Jaitley on how to tackle the crisis that has exposed the rift in the party wide open.
In the one-page resignation, Advani said, "For some time I have been finding it difficult to reconcile either with the current functioning of the party, or the direction in which it is going. Most leaders of ours are now concerned just with their personal agendas."
Advani had skipped the three-day deliberations of the party in Goa over the weekend citing health reasons. This was the first time Advani had stayed away from the National Executive and the office bearers' meeting prior to it.
Important BJP ally JD(U), already not enthused by Modi's elevation, received with surprise Advani's decision and indicated that it will have to review its position in the wake of these developments.
JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has strong reservations over Modi being projected as Prime Ministerial candidate, told reporters in Patna that his party will discuss all aspects of the Goa decision and come out its stand on the matter.
"BJP has taken a decision. Our party will meet and discuss the issue. We will come out with our stand," he said without elaborating.
His party President Sharad Yadav said Advani's resignation was a serious issue and good for NDA's health. JD (U) will convene its own meeting and decide how to go ahead, he said.
BJP's oldest ally, Shiv Sena said Advani's decision was painful and "one cannot think of NDA or BJP without Advaniji."
Interestingly, the editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece `Saamana' today welcomed Modi's elevation and said that "85-year old leadership" cannot bring BJP to power in Delhi.
"The average age of Advani and his other colleagues in the party is 85 years. The 85-year-old leadership cannot bring the BJP to power in Delhi. Therefore, if a new tactic is being launched by pushing Modi forward, it should be welcomed," the editorial said.
Another ally, Akali Dal, which has whole-heartedly welcomed Modi's elevation, was noncommittal over Advani's decision, saying it was internal matter of the BJP.
The RSS described Advani's decision as unfortunate and hoped the party leaders will persuade him to take it back.
During the day, hectic parleys were on among the BJP leaders. Swaraj accompanied by S S Ahluwalia went to meet Advani, who was also met by other party leaders including Vice-President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
BJP President's residence was also a hub of activities where leaders trooped-in for consultations. Naqvi, after his meeting with Advani, said things will be sorted out soon.