New Delhi: Amid reports of differences within the Bharatiya Janata Party over LK Advani's candidature from Gandhinagar even though he wanted Bhopal, party President Rajnath Singh has now downplayed the rift saying the 86-year-old leader is free to contest from any of the two seats. "Advani is free to chose from where ever he wants to contest," said Rajnath at a press meet in Tamil Nadu.
Venkaiah Naidu, too, said that there is no crisis in the party. Rubbishing reports of a rift, Naidu said that all doubts will be clear by Thursday evening. "There is no crisis, who told you Advani is not keen on contesting from Gandhinagar? Has Advani said anything negative so far? We have discussed it," Naidu said.
Meanwhile, according to sources Advani also wants the BJP to field former union minister and his close aide Harin Pathak from Ahmedabad East. Pathak is the sitting MP from Ahmedabad East. Modi had opposed Pathak's nomination in 2009, but it was overruled by both Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi then. The BJP is yet to announce its candidate from Ahmedabad East.
The BJP on Wednesday nominated Advani from Gandhinagar seats despite his willingness to contest from Bhopal. Sources have told CNN-IBN that Advani is adamant on contesting from Madhya Pradesh, saying that he be given a chance to exercise his option to select his seat just as other top party leaders like Rajnath, Arun Jaitley and Narendra Modi.
Earlier, senior leaders, including the party's prime ministerial candidate Modi, Naidu and Sushma met Advani at his residence early on Thursday morning in a bid to persuade him.
The BJP's parliamentary board and the central election committee had on Wednesday decided to field Advani from Gandhinagar and not from Bhopal as desired by him.
The 86-year old patriarch conveyed his displeasure to party leaders Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari, who met him on Wednesday night. The two leaders then met Rajnath Singh to convey Advani's views. Modi, meanwhile, met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, apparently to seek his intervention in resolving the issue.
Advani has represented Gandhinagar in the 10th Lok Sabha (1991-96), 12th Lok Sabha (1998-99), 13th Lok Sabha (1999-2004), 14th Lok Sabha (2004-09) and the current 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14).