Narendra Modi to be formally named BJP’s PM candidate at end of July

published on July 10, 2013

NEW DELHI: Narendra Modi will be formally named BJP’s prime ministerial candidate by July end, ending all ambiguity on his projection as the party’s face for the next general elections and setting the stage for a direct contest between the Gujarat chief minister and Congress scion Rahul Gandhi.

The party’s parliamentary board will make an announcement to this effect, a person familiar with the matter said, adding that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the party’s ideological mentor, had conveyed its backing for Modi to senior BJP leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.

RSS, which is currently holding a three-day meeting in Amravati, will complete the conversations with its various offshoots on Modi’s projection as the prime ministerial candidate, added the person, who did not wish to be named.

Modi all but became BJP’s unannounced face last month after his anointment as the chief of the party’s national campaign committee. However, Advani’s public opposition to Modi’s anointment had led to some talk that BJP could refrain from formally projecting the chief minister ahead of the 2014 general elections.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, however, last week told Advani that the Sangh would go along with the overwhelming support for the Gujarat chief minister’s bid. At the same time, the Sangh bosses assured Advani that his concerns over decision-making in BJP would be addressed by the party leadership.

Modi, who is set to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi, a seat currently held by Murli Manohar Joshi, is seen by his supporters as a candidate capable of swaying voters in the urban and fast-urbanising pockets across the country.

BJP’s strategists believe the ruling Congress, which fared well in these seats in the 2009 polls, will lose out because of concerns over its governance and handling of the economy. “These votes, along with an above-par performance in our traditional strongholds, will significantly improve BJP’s tally. This will help us overcome the limits of numbers,” said a BJP leader, who did not wish to be named.

Modi’s campaign will, therefore, focus on governance issues, drawing on his successful record as Gujarat’s chief minister for 12 years, a period that has won him praise from several quarters for his administrative competence and achieving high growth rates. BJP leaders, who are in the process of sharpening the campaign message, said the party would not be distracted by the attempts to put Modi into an ideological straightjacket.

Modi is expected to be part of a sizeable share of the 100 major campaign rallies planned by the party after monsoon. He has already directed the state units to complete mobilisational efforts for these rallies by August-end.

A major realignment of forces is unlikely before the elections and the post-poll scenario will be decided by the numbers that the two national parties manage to win, the BJP leader said, adding that the rivalry between regional players will push them towards the party.

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