A luncheon meeting between the newly elected BJP president, Rajnath Singh, and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who aspires to a play a greater role at the Centre, provided much needed fodder to the media on the nature of the interaction.
Emerging after the two-hour meeting at the residence of Mr. Singh, the two leaders told journalists that their “elaborate discussions” covered the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as well.
Since he took charge of the party last Wednesday Mr. Singh has been bombarded with questions from the media on whether Mr. Modi would be the face of the BJP in the 2014 election.
The BJP’s stock answer that this would be decided by the party leadership at the appropriate time has not helped put the matter at rest.
Predictably, Mr. Singh faced with the same query, was curt in his response: “What was to be said has been said.” The BJP chief, who has to constitute his team soon, has to decide on Mr. Modi’s place in the organisation ahead of the general election.
It was widely expected that the former party president, Nitin Gadkari, who was forced to give up his bid for a second term at the last minute, would induct Mr. Modi into the influential Parliamentary Board of the party, and in the coming months might even give him charge of the party’s campaign committee for the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Mr. Modi sought to play down the significance of his visit and interaction with the BJP president by suggesting that he had come to congratulate Mr. Singh on his election. “I had come to congratulate him and ask him what I should do. How should I work ahead. What suggestions he has in relation to the State government. I sought and got his guidance in that respect. The party’s Gujarat unit should be useful in the service of the country; we also had a detailed discussion about that,” he said.
Mr. Singh, who was the party chief during the 2009 general election, did not share a very cordial relationship with Mr. Modi. However, given the clamour from the party rank and file for a pivotal role to Mr. Modi, Mr. Singh would have to take the Gujarat Chief Minister on board in navigating the party.