Win in Gujarat polls will enhance Modi's fate as PM candidate, says BJP's Bihar unit chief
Victory in the Gujarat state assembly polls would enhance Chief Minister Narendra Modi's chances of becoming the opposition's prime ministerial candidate in 2014, said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Chandreshwar Prasad Thakur on Tuesday.
Modi's star has steadily risen in the past decade, and he could represent the BJP's best chance to defeat the ruling Congress party.
Thakur, the chief of the BJP's Bihar unit, conceded that there were many contenders for the coveted post in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-led by the BJP.
"If he secures a massive victory in Gujarat, his claim (to be prime ministerial candidate) would enhance. There are many contenders in the party and the NDA (National Democratic Alliance). They will decide. The victory would be in his favour," Thakur told reporters in Patna.
The BJP is a junior partner in the coalition Bihar government headed by Nitish Kumar, leader of the regional Janata Dal-United (JD-U).
Kumar has objected to Modi's projection as the opposition's prime ministerial candidate due to his alleged involvement in 2002 communal riots in which more than 1000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
Meanwhile, the JD-U has refused to comment on Thakur's statement.
"I don't want to comment on this. We have already clearly expressed our opinion on this. Nitish Kumar has said the BJP is the biggest party of the NDA and it is their prerogative. They will decide the leader. The leader should be one, who could take everybody along," said JD-U spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari in Patna.
Critics accuse Modi of not doing enough to stem the violence in 2002, or even quietly encouraging it - allegations he has strenuously denied and have never been proved in inquiries.
His administration was seen as culpable, and for years Modi was a political pariah, vilified at home and shunned by the West.
His slow rehabilitation has been thanks in large part to projecting the administrative efficiency that the rest of India seems to lack. Gujarat is an investor favourite, attracting global firms such as Ford Motor Co , while Modi has benefited from a concerted image makeover.
Playing down the comment, a senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said party would take a call on this after the national elections were declared.
"The party and parliamentary board would select prime ministerial candidate after the elections are declared. Speculation at this point of time is uncalled for," Naqvi told reporters in New Delhi.
Modi's critics acknowledge his ability to pitch Gujarat as a go-to destination for new businesses, holding investor summits every two years that attract some of the country's biggest business tycoons.
He has also made concerted efforts to project himself as a moderate. He is trying to promote religious harmony and has toned down his speeches, shifting their focus from Hindu revivalist rhetoric to trumpeting investment.
Gujarat goes to polls on December 13 and 17th and counting of votes would take place on December 20.