Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Sunday declared his preference for the post of prime minister. Putting paid to any possibility of support for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi or BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Mr. Thackeray said he would back Sushma Swaraj for prime minister as she was the only deserving and brilliant person who fitted the bill. “She’s a savvy woman and will perform her job as prime minister in a forceful and decisive manner,” the Sena chief said in the third part of his interview with party mouthpiece Saamna.
Mr. Thackeray was also not too happy with BJP leader L.K. Advani’s stand that the next prime minister would not be from the BJP but from another third or fourth front. “What can I expect from these people? Why did he say this? Let it be.”
The whole country, not only Maharashtra, was passing through depressing times, he pointed out. The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party were coming to power time and again because of the money power they wielded. Despite all this, the Sena won the civic polls in Mumbai and Thane and this was because of the spirit of the Marathi Manoos. The Marathi Manoos would never forget the Sena because of the pride and dignity the Sena had given them.
Mr. Thackeray said he could not describe the Sena-BJP ties as strong in Maharashtra as many things had changed. He also raised doubts over the leadership of the National Democratic Alliance, of which he is part of. “There is no balanced leadership like the one under Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” he noted. Asked about the future of the Sena-BJP alliance, he said he was not worrying about the future of the alliance and that was his position even before the alliance was formed.
He lamented that unlike other States that had their own identity, there was no unique Marathi identity or imprint, not even a dress code for a Maharashtrian that would distinguish him or her like people in other States. He blasted the State government’s plan to declare Shivaji Park as a heritage area, saying that all of Shivaji Maharaj’s forts were in shambles and they were not brought under any heritage tag. “You can’t even take care of Shivaji Maharaj’s forts. First do that,” he said.
Party has many capable leaders: BJP
In Delhi, BJP leader Balbir Punj said the party had a “number of capable leaders” who could fill the slot as Prime Minister.“For our existence, we are not dependent on any single family and, therefore, different people see different leaders in our party who can lead the country in these difficult times. And we welcome what Balasaheb has said.”
Speaking in a similar vein, BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “The BJP has many leaders who are competent to become Prime Minister and are acceptable in the country ... a decision on this will be taken by the BJP and other NDA partners at the time of elections.”
Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said, “The larger NDA suffers from a unique malady of anointing prime ministers without awaiting people’s verdict ... The NDA/BJP should not count their chickens before they hatch.”
Mr. Tewari said: “While in 2007 there was one prime minister-in-waiting [in the NDA], by 2012 the numbers are multiplying at a rate that defies the logic of calculation.”