Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha reminded that Mr. Modi has left others by miles behind in the popularity chart of all opinion polls

Hailing as a “winning decision” Narendra Modi’s elevation as Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha polls, party leader Arun Jaitley on Sunday expressed confidence that senior leader L.K. Advani will “eventually support” the move.

In an interview to Karan Thapar in CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate programme, he acknowledged there were “two alternative views” within the BJP on the issue and that the decision to anoint Mr. Modi as the party’s face for next general election was taken by “an overwhelming majority in the party” keeping in view “larger interests”.

“There can be two alternative views available in a party.

But the party has to factor in larger public interests. The collective wisdom of not only a majority but an overwhelming majority, the groundswell was that we take decision.

“We weighed all possible options. We weighed the opinion of our supporting constituency and cadres...We cannot defy the opinion of our rank and file or even that of our supporting constituency. When the party takes a decision, you have to factor in what is the collective wisdom, what is the pull coming from cadres and supporting constituency,” Mr. Jaitley said.

The BJP leader said that most of his party men feel that the next general election “besides being an anti-incumbency election is also a leadership referendum and here Mr. Modi does give us an advantage.”

“We had a choice between postponing a decision, facing a criticism that we are unable to decide or taking a winning decision and we have taken a winning decision. Advaniji being a seasoned and senior politician will eventually support every decision that the party has taken,” he said.

Mr. Jaitley, however, refused to answer questions about the possibility of dropping Mr. Modi and the party settling with somebody more acceptable to allies after elections if it failed to get the required numbers, saying, “I am not going exercise the option of discussing any hypothetical situation.”

He said, “At the moment, my strategy, my party’s strategy is that we win maximum number of seats” and reminded that Mr. Modi has left others by miles behind in the popularity chart of all opinion polls.

Mr. Jaitley claimed that chemistry of politics is changing in the country and the arithmetic will depend on this.

Replying to a question on the possiblity of no other ally joining NDA after this development, he suggested that it was not likely that many previous allies of NDA would have joined back the alliance in the pre-election scenario even if the Gujarat Chief Minister was not declared the PM candidate.

“We have to see the changing chemistry of the country ...If either we did not have (decided) a leader or decided something else, was there a possibility, in the pre-election scenario of a very large number of allies coming back to us?

“That is an assessment and a call we had to take. And the call was that it doesn’t appear likely. Therefore, the BJP’s assessment is that the stronger the BJP is, the stronger will be the NDA...With Modi in the front seat, the possibility of our getting the largest number of seats is there,” he said.

Mr. Jaitley also dismissed the contention as to why Mr. Modi does seek apology for the post-Godhra riots in 2002 and noted that the Gujarat Chief Minister had repeatedly said that hang him if he was guilty and that if he was not guilty this scar should not keep hanging on with him.

“A person against whom no evidence is found certainly must not be tried by media, when not even a shred of evidence has been found against him. He has repeatedly said that hang me if I am guilty...if I am guilty, should I just get away with an apology?

”...When you accuse him of engineering riots, you can’t expect him to plead guilty by apologising,” Mr. Jaitley said, adding that that Mr. Modi has demonstrated by his action that he is not against the minorities and that everyone including minorities should judge him by his performance and action.

He also downplayed accusations levelled against Mr. Modi by jailed Gujarat cop D G Vanzara, saying the comments coming from the imprisoned man should not be taken as gospel truth.

Mr. Jaitley also drew a parallel with 1984 ant--Sikh riots during Congress regime, saying while it was an “exercise in cover-up from top to bottom,” the 2002 post-Godhra riots have undergone six investigations.

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