Party veteran Joshi says he will support the decision of Parliamentary Board

Unlike their counterparts in the other States, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders from Uttar Pradesh are shying away from endorsing the idea of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi being projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Senior BJP leader and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the Lok Sabha Murli Manohar Joshi sidestepped a query on Mr. Modi and said whenever a decision was taken by the party on naming the Prime Ministerial candidate, it would be made known.

Dr. Joshi, who is a Member of Parliament from Varanasi, told reporters here on Saturday that he would speak at the appropriate forum, and added that he would support the decision of the Parliamentary Board.

When pointedly asked whether his response was in tune with the recent “gag orders” issued by party president Rajnath Singh, that leaders should exercise caution while issuing statements [related to Mr. Modi], he denied that there were any such orders. Dr. Joshi even rejected a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader’s reported charge that Nitin Gadkari’s recent ouster was the result of a conspiracy by some leaders. “There was no conspiracy,” Dr. Joshi added.

In Allahabad, vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi described Mr. Modi as a “nationalist” [rashtravadi] with a “countrywide appeal,” but was quick to add that that there were “other nationalist leaders” in the party. Mr. Naqvi said a decision on this count would be taken by the party. Another senior leader and MLA from Lucknow East, Kalraj Mishra, when asked for his views told journalists that Mr. Modi was “in” the “race.”

With 80 Lok Sabha seats and the Ram temple issue still on the BJP’s dossier, Uttar Pradesh figures prominently in the party’s 2014 poll agenda. In the 2009 poll, it fared poorly and could manage only 10 seats. But, with a “homegrown” leader like Rajnath Singh back at the helm [ he was the party chief in 2009 too], State leaders, including U.P. BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai, have claimed that in 2014 the tally would increase to between 40 and 50 seats.

Mr. Singh, who is the MP from Ghaziabad, is arriving on February 5 on a two-day visit to Lucknow.