However, Rajnath still trying to bring Sushma, Joshi on board
Brushing aside serious reservations voiced by veteran leader L.K. Advani, the BJP is all set to announce Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election.
The only question now is how soon the announcement would come. Indications are that it could be as early as Friday. Agency reports said it would be on Friday evening. However, it was not confirmed by the BJP.
BJP president Rajnath Singh is still engaged in talks with other naysayers like Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, and in a less strident manner, former party president Murli Manohar Joshi. Both of them would be out of the national capital on Friday.
After his vain attempt on Wednesday to secure Mr. Advani’s consent, Mr. Singh on Thursday met Ms. Swaraj to get her on board. Like Mr. Advani, she too wants the announcement of the prime ministerial candidate deferred till the conclusion of election to five Assemblies in November.
Of the five Assemblies, the BJP has stakes in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi. The party sees Delhi as a major challenge given the track record of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and the deep factionalism within its ranks.
There is no clarity yet on whether the BJP would convene a formal meeting of the Parliamentary Board as Mr. Singh has been consistently saying for several months before going public on Mr. Modi as the PM choice.
There were suggestions earlier in the day that Mr. Singh could make a unilateral announcement with the proviso that he has taken the decision after individual consultations with members of the Parliamentary Board.
While Mr. Advani has remained silent on the issue, his close associate Sudheendhra Kulkarni attacked the Gujarat Chief Minister, describing him as a “polarising leader” in society as well as the party and cast aspersions on his ability as prime minister to run a stable and effective government.
“A socially polarising leader has polarised his own party. Can he run a smooth, stable and effective government at the Centre? think seriously!” Mr. Kulkarni tweeted.
“Elections are seven months away. People want a change. But who will provide the change? Leaders who are polarising the society?” Mr. Kulkarni told a news channel.
He maintained that there was no unanimity in the party about the PM candidate. “Question does arise that can such a leader ensure a smooth government and peace in society,” he said.
Sushil Modi bats for Modi
Rahi Gaikwad reports from Patna:
Earlier in the day, in Patna, the former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, criticised Mr. Advani for “failing” to understand public sentiment regarding Mr. Modi’s candidature for the PM post.
The BJP leader tweeted: “Advaniji has failed to gauge the public mood. Advaniji himself declared Atalji as PM candidate, now also he could have done the same for NaMo.”
Mr. Modi said Mr. Advani “should respect the ‘janbhavana’ [public sentiment] and Narendra Modi should be declared the party’s prime ministerial candidate as soon as possible.”
“Advaniji is our seniormost leader. If he were not there, Narendra Modi or Shivraj Chauhan would not have been able to become Chief Ministers. During his lifetime, he nurtured a second line of leadership in the BJP. After the NDA split in Bihar, all of us have been conducting several tours in the State. We have organised around 11 rallies which have received a very good response. Not just the BJP workers and supporters, but the common man too, who is fed up with the Congress, sees the BJP and in that he sees Narendra Modi as the alternative,” he told reporters.