This morning, Times Now telecast unedifying images of Rajnath Singh grimacing in irritation when asked the question about Narendra Modi as the successor to LK Advani. The panelists on the show had quite a laugh at Rajnath's apparent discomfiture. Sitting next to me in the panel, Ravi Shankar Prasad tried to dodge the question, somewhat unsuccessfully.
The BJP leaders may have a right to be a little concerned that the Modi issue somehow undermines Advani. It may even make it look that Advani is the grudging choice and that Modi is the "real" leader. At least this is what the Congress claims.
Judged in terms of tactical positioning the BJP's embarrassment is understandable. But they have created the embarrassment by trying to pretend that the media has no right to speculate about a post-Advani situation.
The Congress isn't embarrassed when Rahul Gandhi is projected as the future leader. The party does so quite openly in its poll messages.
Wherever I have travelled throughout India, BJP workers are less inhibited. They see Modi as the leader for the next election. The BJP HQ in Delhi has been flooded with requests from candidates requesting Modi's presence in their constituencies.
The appeal of Advani and Modi are different. Advani is the elder statesman; Modi is an inspiration.
The BJP may rightly feel that this issue can't be raised in the middle of an election but they can't duck this question indefinitely. Nor can some nervous leaders try to derail Modi's natural progression to the top job. Unless they can show that someone else is better suited.
As a BJP supporter who has tremendous respect for Advani--he was my inspiration in the 1990s--I have no hesitation in saying that the future belongs to Modi.
If Advani becomes PM he is entitled to a full term in office. He will have my full and unstinting support. There can be no question of Modi replacing a popularly elected PM.
Yet, when it comes to the next election in 2014 or earlier, my vote is unwaveringly for Narendra Modi.