Clarifying the position of the Bharatiya Janata Party on the projection of “Brand Modi,” senior leader Gopinath Munde said on Saturday that Narendra Modi, who had been chosen by the party and its alliance partners as their prime ministerial candidate, was not bigger than the BJP.

“The BJP is not a party which is dependant on one person. Modi has been chosen as the prime ministerial candidate not only by our party but also by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Naturally he is the face of our campaign,” he said in an interview to The Hindu.

Mr. Munde defended Mr. Modi on the handling of the Gujarat riots. “Modi is the only secular face for this election. Muslims are safe under his rule in Gujarat,” he said. The so-called secular forces in the country forgot about Muzaffarnagar riots, but kept mentioning the 2002 Gujarat riots, he added.

Mr. Munde said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar wanted to join the NDA. “Uddhav Thackeray and I opposed his entry. People like him should be defeated,” he said.

Speaking on a range of issues, Mr. Munde accepted that he too had met Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray seeking his support for the BJP.

Former BJP president Nitin Gadkari had drawn severe criticism from the party’s alliance partner, the Shiv Sena, for meeting Mr. Raj Thackeray. However, Mr. Munde said his meeting had a different purpose from that of Mr. Gadkari’s.

“My meeting was held before the decision on seat-sharing with the Shiv Sena. I tried to bring everyone under one banner, but could not succeed,” he said.

Criticising the MNS chief for using Mr. Modi’s name for the election campaign, he said Mr. Raj Thackeray has lost his appeal and could not win votes using his own name.

More In: National | News | Mumbai