Will Modi be BJPs Prime MinisterialCandidate?Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appears to have emerged as a front-runner in thefaction-ridden Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its prime ministerial candidate.Although the BJP doesnt say so, political pundits say this much is easy to infer after thejust concluded national executive meet in Mumbai.BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who is known to enjoy the backing of RSS, had to bow toModi to ensure his attendance in Mumbai by forcing out his bete noire, Sanjay Joshi,from the national executive.And from the speeches that followed, including Modis own as well as his body language,it was apparent he has eclipsed the old guard.Political analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao says the writing on the wall is clear."His selection (as PM candidate) appears certain. There is no doubt. The signal inMumbai is very clear. I dont see any hurdle. He has mass appeal among the currentleaders and is the most favoured candidate," Rao, also an advisor to the party, told IANS.
"Come December (Gujarat election), the BJP will have to announce his name. Its just amatter of time," he added.Agreed N. Bhaskar Rao, founder and chairman of the Centre for Media Studies: "Wecant deny the Modi phenomena. He has been perceived as one who takes toughdecisions, stands by them and delivers what he promises. It is apparent he will be thefuture of BJP."Time magazines decision to feature Modi on its March 26 issue has been repeatedlytouted by the BJP and Modi supporters as another indication of his growing appeal.Modi aides say that Gujarat turned into a state with one of the highest GDP growth ratesof over 10 percent.His annual "Vibrant Gujarat" summits attract the biggest names in business resulting inMoUs.His supporters say he has ensured a good business climate in Gujarat.In comparison, there is no one of stature in the BJP. Former prime minister Atal BihariVajpayee is politically dead. The veteran L.K. Advani does not seem to command theaura that he did earlier.Modi is reported to have asked for a post in the parliamentary board of the BJP and issaid to be eyeing a key position in the national leadership.
But Modis path to prime ministerial hopeful wont be easy. The biggest stumbling blockis the 2002 Gujarat communal violence, an event that has forced the U.S. to denydiplomatic visa. Even the Time magazine caption noted:"Modi means business but can he lead India."And while Modi is on excellent terms with his AIADMK leader and his Tamil Naducounterpart J. Jayalalithaa, not every chief minister, including those who are BJP allies,are enamoured of him.This is why, says Nisar Ul Haq of the political science department at the Jamia MilliaIslamia here, that Modi does not have a chance to grow nationally.He said within the party there was resentment against Modi -- in Gujarat and elsewhere -- and the ghost of 2002 will haunt him."I dont think there is any question of him becoming the prime ministerial candidate. He(Modi) doesnt have national appeal. The ghost of Godhra will never go away," Haq toldIANS.
In any case, the Lok Sabha ballot is two years away. "Things can change drastically.Winds can blow in Congress favour," he added.But Narasimha Rao feels the old guard in the party will fall in line.The Congress iskeeping away from the Modi story vis-a-vis 2014."It is an internal matter of BJP. But the people of the country will decide who is secularand who is not," Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi told IANS