Keeping the next Lok Sabha elections in mind, BJP on Sunday Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as Chairman of its Election Campaign Committee for the 2014 polls, a move considered just short of making him the prime ministerial candidate.
“I want to give you a significant information. …I have announced (at the National Executive) that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as Chairman of the BJP Election Campaign Committee, keeping in mind the challenge of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and to achieve victory in the polls,” party President Rajnath Singh told the media at the conclusion of its 2-day deliberations.
“Whatever has happened has happened on the basis of consensus,” Singh said without elaborating. The decision to appoint 63-year-old Modi came against the backdrop of Advani, who is said to be strongly opposed to the elevation of Modi, keeping away from the meeting.
Several other leaders including Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Uma Bharati and Shatrughan Sinha, who are also said to be reportedly having reservations on Modi’s elevation, also kept away from the Executive meeting.
After two days of deliberations and dilemma, the party appears to have taken the plunge by plumping for Modi in a crucial role, ignoring reservations from leaders like Advani, the tallest leader after Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Singh said all parties view elections as a challenge and BJP also viewed the coming Lok Sabha elections as a challenge and Modi’s elevation was done keeping in mind the need to achieve victory.
Modi, considered a polarising figure in the country’s politics, said in a tweet that Advani has given his “blessings” to him after Singh’s announcement.
“Spoke to Advaniji on the phone. He gave me his blessings. Honoured and extremely grateful to receive his blessings.”
“Senior leaders have reposed faith in me. We will leave no stone unturned for Congress-mukht bharat nirman (building India free of Congress). Thanks for support and blessings,” he said in another tweet message.
Today’s decision of BJP could be seen as a gamble to perk up the party’s prospects after its defeat in two consecutive Lok Sabha elections.
Throughout the whole of on Saturday, there was media speculation that the party could defer an announcement on Modi. One version was that Advani wanted that Modi should be made head of the campaign for the Assembly elections, including in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, later this year.
Party sources said Singh resolved the dilemma after it was felt the meeting should not conclude without a “result” as it would lead to demoralisation of the cadre. Hence, the announcement was made, they said.
The announcement of Modi’s elevation towards the end of Singh’s valedictory address at the National Executive session was received with cheers and standing ovation.
Sushama Swaraj declined to make any comments when reporters sought her reaction to Singh’s announcement.
Venkaiah Naidu told a news agency that Singh had spoken to Advani on Saturday and today on the elevation of Modi.
However, sources close to Advani said there was no discussion on the issue between Singh or other BJP leaders or from the RSS either.
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who has come with a demand that Modi be declared the prime ministerial candidate, said “it is a good decision taken firmly. It is a decision of everyone and based on public opinion”.
“You should have seen the clapping after the announcement was made,” he told reporters on the reaction among the delegates to Singh’s announcement.
JD (U), which is opposed to Modi being made the BJP prime ministerial candidate, sought to play down the BJP decision saying it was an internal matter of BJP as he has been made only the chief of his party’s campaign committee and not NDA.
“The NDA will decide its prime ministerial candidate,” JD(U) President Sharad Yadav said in his reaction.