Yashwant Sinha, the outspoken senior BJP leader who played a big part in the rebellion against former party chief Nitin Gadkari, has now suggested that the party declare Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its candidate for Prime Minister in the general elections scheduled for 2014.
"People and ordinary party workers have been demanding that the BJP should present Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. It is my opinion that if the BJP declares Mr Modi as its candidate for PM then it will benefit the party enormously in the elections. I have no doubt that it will have a great impact on the voters," said Mr Sinha, who is seen as a thinking leader who weighs what he says. He emphasised that this was a personal view and that the decision would be taken by the party leadership.
Political watchers are reading between the lines. Mr Sinha, not seen as pro-Modi, has not just made an attempt, they say, to throw his weight behind the leader whose star is on an ascent in the BJP, but he has also backed the one man who can keep the Rashtriya Swayamwevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP's powerful ideological mentor, at bay. The RSS appropriates much say in the party's affairs, much to the chagrin of many senior BJP leaders. The Sangh supports Mr Modi, but has also been wary of his surging ambition post some spectacular electoral performances.
New BJP president Rajnath Singh met Mr Modi for two hours in Delhi yesterday; the Gujarat CM had flown down to congratulate Mr Singh on his taking over the reins of the party and both leaders said they discussed, among other things, the Lok Sabha elections. Mr Singh said he would discuss a "bigger role" for Mr Modi in the run-up to the elections with other leaders of the party; Mr Modi indicated that he was ready for that bigger role.
The BJP and the RSS have reportedly prepped a battle-plan that casts Mr Modi as the head of party's campaign committee for 2014 and an announcement is expected next month, sources have said. But they have been loath to declare him its candidate for PM just yet, despite a growing clamour within. For one, there are other aspirants in the party. And also because Mr Modi is not universally acceptable in that role to its political partners in the National Democratic Allliance like the Janata Dal (United).
Soon after Mr Sinha made his Modi comments, senior JD(U) leader KC Tyagi said, These are personal views expressed by Mr Sinha. Let BJP first decide on a name and let that be endorsed by the NDA."
Mr Sinha said about the JD(U) stand, "The JD-U is an independent party like the BJP, it is free to take its decisions. But it's wrong to target one individual."
Yashwant Sinha was one of three leaders who had demanded last year that Mr Gadkari resign after charges of corruption stacked up against him. Last week, Mr Sinha threatened to contest elections for party president against Mr Gadkari, if the latter sought a second term. The BJP traditionally elects its head unopposed and Mr Sinha's threat, along with an income tax investigation into Mr Gadkari's businesses, made the party leadership quickly choose Rajnath Singh as a consensus candidate.