Senior leader Yashwant Sinha on Monday openly pitched for declaring Narendra Modi as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha elections, saying it will benefit the party hugely.

Contending that he was reflecting the mood of the country and BJP workers, he advised JD(U), which has reservations on Mr. Modi because of the 2002 Gujarat riots, not to target the chief minister but take a decision after careful consideration.

“A debate has been taking place for many days now. When I travel, there is a strong demand from common people and workers that Narendra Modi should be declared as the PM candidate as this will benefit the party.

“After careful thought, I have concluded that if BJP declares Modi as its PM candidate, then BJP will benefit hugely in the elections. It will have a big impact on voters. I have no doubt on this,” Mr. Sinha told reporters here.

The former External Affairs Minister, who had once claimed to be qualified for the top job, said the decision on the prime ministerial candidate has to be taken by the party but this is the sentiment of workers and public.

Mr. Sinha became the first senior BJP leader to openly support Modi for the top post.

Mr. Modi, who held “elaborate” discussions with new BJP chief Rajnath Singh here on Sunday on the 2014 elections, himself has been parrying the question.

On JD(U) having reservations on Mr. Modi’s name, Mr. Sinha said if the ally does not support, it will be a wrong decision. “JD(U) is the oldest ally of BJP... and it should remain in the alliance,” he said.

However, he took exception to JD(U) targeting Mr. Modi, saying “to target one particular person is not fair. Either the entire party is secular or the entire party is communal. Within the BJP, you cannot pick and choose. That is a flawed argument.”

When asked about the possibility of JD(U) quitting the NDA if Mr. Modi is declared as PM candidate by BJP, Sinha said, “if any party goes, a number of parties will come.... JD(U) is absolutely free.

“It is another party, it is an ally. If they take a position, they should take it only after careful consideration.”

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