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Modi as PM candidate: When will BJP make the big bang?

August 03, 2013 23:12 IST

If the BJP is waiting for a better assessment about the assembly polls, the Congress is doing the same to see if it should club the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the year-end polls. says Anita Katyal

The Bharatiya Janata Party is currently in the throes of a debate over when it can declare Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.

Although it is becoming increasingly clear that Modi will definitely be projected as the saffron outfit’s choice for the top post, the BJP leadership is still deliberating about when this announcement should be made.

"It is no longer a question of who but when," remarked a senior BJP leader.

BJP President Rajnath Singh has publicly spoken about Modi's 'numero uno' position in the party on several occasions. Speaking to the media on Friday, he had said the party had already taken a decision about its prime ministerial candidate.

"Our choice of prime ministerial candidate is obvious. It is now the turn of the Congress to make its choice clear," he had said without naming Modi.

The question being discussed in the BJP these days is whether the 'big bang' announcement should be made before or after the year-end assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram.

The debate about the timing has been gathering momentum ever since Janata Dal - United leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar walked out of the National Democratic Alliance following Modi’s appointment as the BJP’s Campaign Committee chief.

In fact, BJP cadres are mounting pressure on the leadership to announce Modi’s candidature as they feel there is no compulsion to delay the declaration, now that the JD-U can't hold the party back.

Arguing in favour of Modi's projection before the assembly polls, they maintain that the announcement would have a positive impact on the voters in these states and it will tilt the balance in the BJP's favour because of the Gujarat strongman’s overwhelming appeal.

On the other hand, a section of BJP leaders believe there is no need for a rushed decision. They maintain that there is no need to "display our trump card so early."

They further point out that the pro-Modi campaign would be seriously derailed if the BJP does not perform well in the assembly polls after making such a grand announcement.

Modi, they feel, will then stand 'exposed' and the BJP rank and file will be demoralised.

The opposition will also get an opportunity to sharpen its campaign against the BJP in general and its PM aspirant in particular.

The BJP is waiting to get a clearer picture about the party’s prospects in the forthcoming assembly polls. The feedback it has received so far indicates that though the BJP is way ahead of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and faring well in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, it is facing a resurgent Congress in Rajasthan, while the picture in Delhi remains confusing.

The BJP is also waiting for the Congress to take a final stand on its prime ministerial candidate.

While Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is the party’s undisputed PM-in-waiting, the leadership has deliberately kept up the suspense on this issue in order to confuse the opposition camp.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not rule himself out of the race when he was specifically asked if he would be agreeable for a third term, other probable candidates like Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony are also being mentioned.

If the BJP is waiting for a better assessment about the assembly polls, the Congress is doing the same to see if it should club the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the year-end polls or hold them next April, as originally scheduled.

If the internal surveys predict that the party will be able to retain Delhi and Rajasthan, the Congress will not tinker with the election schedule.

On the other hand, if the reports suggest that the Congress is going to be down 4-0 in the electoral match, it will be inclined to hold assembly and Lok Sabha polls simultaneously.

As of now, surveys indicate that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will stage a comeback and he will pose a tough challenge for BJP's CM candidate Vasundhra Raje.

In Delhi, although thrice-elected Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit faces strong anti-incumbency, BJP’s CM candidate Vijay Goel is not exactly proving to be an inspiring choice.

Neither the BJP nor the Congress is able to fathom the likely impact of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party.

If AAP’s appeal with the middle-class and the youth has not diminished, it will hit the BJP’s support base.

On the other hand, latest reports suggest that the AAP is increasingly being looked upon favourably by slum dwellers, after the party took up the issue of inflated electricity and water bills.

If such reports are accurate, the AAP will hurt even the Congress's chances as these sections have always voted in the latter's favour. Like Modi, AAP is also seen as an imponderable factor, whose electoral impact would be difficult to determine.

Anita Katyal in New Delhi