Narendra Modi will be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate even if the ruling NDA falls short of a majority in the Lok Sabha elections as his leadership qualities are "unmatched", Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has said.
He, however, asserted that the BJP will improve upon its performance in the 2014 polls and cross the 300-seat mark. The NDA, he claimed, will clinch over 400 seats.
Speaking on the Ram temple issue, Mr Maurya said its construction in Ayodhya was only a matter of time and that the Centre will "remove all the hurdles" coming in the way. "In 2014, we had won 282 seats. But in 2019, the BJP alone will cross 300 seats. With our NDA partners we will cross the 400 mark under the leadership of (Narendra) Modi," Mr Maurya was quoted by news agency told PTI as saying.
He insisted that PM Modi will come to power as "people trust only him".
"That the BJP won't get a majority is a figment of imagination. Those who are trying to pitch themselves as PM candidate like Mamata Banerjee can only dream that (Narendra) Modi won't be getting a majority. The fact is that Modiji will be elected as PM again with a massive majority," he said.
His comments come at a time when speculation is rife that Union minister Nitin Gadkari, considered close to the RSS and who has acceptability across party lines, might replace PM Modi in the event of the NDA failing to cross the majority mark in order to enlist the support of small parties and regional players averse to backing the current prime minister.
Speaking about the construction of Ram temple in Ayodha, Mr Maurya said bricks inscribed with Babur's name won't be allowed at the site of Ram Janmabhoomi.
Referring to the Centre seeking permission of the Supreme Court to return the excess land aquired around the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site to original owners, Mr Maurya said he is hopeful that the verdict will be in favour of the government.
On whether the government will take steps for construction of Ram temple ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, he said building the shrine is the decision of the sadhus and devotees of the Lord and that the government will only "remove all the hurdles in the way".
Facing growing pressure to move swiftly on the Ram temple issue, the Modi government last month asked the Supreme Court to allow it to return the non-disputed surplus land acquired around the place where the disputed structure in Ayodhya stood before its demolition to a Hindu trust and other original owners, in a significant move ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
The move could see some form of construction of a Ram temple by Hindu groups, if the handover is allowed. The RSS and other Hindutva protagonists may pressure the Centre to facilitate such a step.
When asked whether the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi as Congress general secretary in charge of eastern UttarPradesh would be factor in the Lok Sabha polls, Mr Maurya said itwon't have any impact and the opposition party will not be able to open its account in the state.
He said ideologically incompatible Samajwadi Partyand the BSP have formed an alliance in Uttar Pradesh out of"fear" of PM Modi.