BJP’s Modi ploy an answer to Congress’ Rahul?

April 26th, 2009 - 7:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) move to throw up Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s name as a future prime minister half way through the elections has taken people even in his own party by surprise, but political analysts say it could be a belated strategy to impress on young voters that the party has a second line of leadership ready as well.
The BJP’s election managers claimed there was no “pre-conceived strategy” when party ideologue Arun Shourie said Friday that Modi was the “next prime minister also from Gujarat after L.K. Advani” only to indicate there was no dearth of leadership in the party. That if the Congress had Rahul Gandhi as a prime minister-in-waiting, the BJP had Modi.

They maintained that this did not in any way change the present fact that L.K. Advani, 81, was the party’s man for the top job after the 2009 elections.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, an adviser to Advani, told IANS: “There is no pre-conceived strategy here, but it is the party’s way of conveying that there is no dearth of leadership.”

Asked if the BJP was telling the people that if the Congress had its young general secretary Rahul Gandhi waiting in the wings to take up the top job after Manmohan Singh, it had Narendra Modi, Kulkarni said: “Yes, it means that.”

So was 59-year-old Modi’s name thrown up to enthuse the young voters who might be swayed by Rahul Gandhi? He said there was no competition but it would “indeed enthuse” the voters.

But, he added, that did not change anything for the present elections. “As far as 2009 is concerned, there is a complete consensus in BJP and NDA (National Democratic Alliance) on Advaniji, but Narendra Modi is the future leader and nobody disputes that.”

“This would only galvanise the voters on the 30th (during the third round of polling) during voting in Gujarat and elsewhere,” says BJP national executive member G.V.L. Narasimha Rao. Advani is himself a candidate from Gujarat capital Gandhinagar, which is among the states going to the polls April 30.

“Nobody has a problem if Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka and, for all you know their children, becoming prime ministers, but you have a problem when Modi comes up as the next PM after Advani,” Rao wondered.

When told that the question was the timing when two rounds of polling had already been completed, Rao said: “Nobody is talking about him (Modi) as the prime minister (now). But he is certainly an important leader, he is campaigning all over the country.”

Asked if it would not confuse the voters if Advani or Modi was the candidate for the top post, he said: “There is no confusion at all. It will on the contrary galvanise the voters.”

Modi occupies a prominent place on Advani’s website as the party’s symbol of good governance.

“Modi is a great event manager, a smart PR guy who is hardselling the state as a model to those states which have not seen all this growth already existent in Gujarat,” says Ahmedabad-based political scientist Achyut Yagnik.

But in other parts of the country, Modi is known more as the man who presided over a communal carnage in the state in 2002 that left over 1,000 Muslims killed, although his supporters swear by him a development man, who doesn’t take bribes, nor allows anyone else to take. (”khata bhi nahi, khane deta bhi nahi”, as he himself says).

Says political analyst Swapan Dasgupta, who is known for his right of centre views: “There is no doubt about his (Modi’s) status, his importance and his appeal. He is first among equals in the next leadership. But for the present elections, Advani is there.”

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