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BJP's prime ministerial Dashavatar

Last updated on: August 21, 2013 10:56 IST

BJP's prime ministerial Dashavatar

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Arun Jaitley said the BJP has 10 potential prime ministerial candidates -- and all along one thought there was only one! So who are the 10? Here’s a quick checklist.

If one thought the Bharatiya Janata Party had more or less zeroed in on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, one could be wrong. For, no less than the party’s leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, considered close to Modi, told The Hindu newspaper in an interview that there are no less than 10 prime ministerial contestants in the BJP.

Not entirely dismissing veteran LK Advani’s opposition to Modi’s possible nomination to the top job in the country, Jaitley told the newspaper: It ‘saddens me since it reflects a mindset that five wise men must sit in a room and produce a name. That’s not how leaders should be made. If someone has a contrarian view prior to the elevation of a leader, I don’t think the heavens fall if that view is expressed.’

Jaitley in his interview also likened these “distinct voices” as ‘a healthy trend, natural to the phenomenon of a structured political party’, where the “race to the top can at best be described as the Indian version of the American primaries”.

So we at Rediff.com decided to list out the BJP’s 10 qualifiers for the PM’s post in 2014, from regional superpowers to RSS bridges and the proverbial dark horse.

So who among the 10 gets your support? Vote in the last slide and let us know!

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Photographs: Reuters; Graphic by Reuben V

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Sushma Swaraj: All fire and brimstone

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Known to get emotional on issues and beliefs close to her heart, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has created a niche for herself with her excellent oratory skills and fiery style, both inside and outside Parliament.

Even as Modi is leading the race, Swaraj could emerge as the surprise choice.

Remember, the late Shiva Sena chief Bal Thackeray himself had once expressed himself in favour of Sushma as the next PM, and said, “She is intelligent, deserving and would make an excellent choice for PM.”

She is also known for making friends across parties, and is well-liked, which is a definite plus in an era of multi-party coalitions. 

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Image: Sushma Swaraj
Photographs: Courtesy BJP website

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Arun Jaitley: The suave force

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Leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley nd possesses the argumentative skills of an ace advocate which he is, and once famously demolished the United Progressive Alliance’s argument; itself flanked by known lawyers as P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, and ended it with a parting shot among peals of laughter, “This is the problem with governments that have too many lawyers advising them.”

Known for his organisational skills, Jaitley was beside Modi as the latter won the Gujarat assembly elections by a landslide in 2007 and in 2012.

In 2008, on his watch the BJP won 110 seats in the Karnataka assembly elections, falling just three short of a majority, which he successfully negotiated with the help of five independent MLAs.

Jaitley is also known to successfully choreograph the BJP’s rise to power in other states like Bihar and Punjab. His mass appeal lies among the urban, media-savvy population, and has, on times, come across as a better orator than even Sushma.

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Image: Arun Jaitley
Photographs: Courtesy BJP website

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Nitin Gadkari: The 'bridge' to RSS

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This Nagpur strongman and former party president is known for his organisational skills, and his commitment to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Like Jaitley, he also started as a grass-root worker, as a foot soldier of the RSS, to a student leader, and becoming the youngest-ever party president to the surprise of many party leaders.

What may go in Gadkari’s favour is his acceptability and potential to forge alliances unlike Modi, whose strong Hindutva image could come in the way in states other than Gujarat.

What also is in his favour, for the time being, is that patriarch LK Advani, months after playing a key role in spoiling Gadkari’s second term as party president, has sought out his support to perhaps create confusion among the Modi supporters.

What may go against Gadkari is that he seemingly does not want to be a part of the Modi-Advani tug-of-war, since Modi is said to have the backing of Jaitley, and M Venkaiah Naidu, both powerful leaders in the party.

Still, who knows, he may yet turn out to be the proverbial “consensus candidate”.

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Image: Nitin Gadkari
Photographs: Courtesy BJP website

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Shivraj Singh Chouhan: The desi thunder

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There’s a group in the BJP that insists that although poll campaign chief Narendra Modi is their most popular leader, he’s definitely not the only successful chief minister of the party-ruled states whom the saffron brigade can project for the highest post in the country.

In that sense, Madhya Pradesh strongman Shivraj Singh Chouhan, with his close connections to the RSS, stands a moderate if not an exceptionally good chance of being named the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.

The leader, a strict disciplinarian, who has earned quite a few certificates for being a ‘performing CM’, has a tremendous advantage over some of the so-called contenders within the party -- he is a mass leader.

However, the down-to-earth netaji doesn’t score too highly on the charisma meter.

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Image: Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Photographs: Courtesy BJP website

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Raman Singh: The silent troubleshooter

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In the same league as Chouhan is his Chhattisgarh counterpart Raman Singh, an extremely popular leader who had taken the newly formed tribal-dominated backward state by a storm.

However, the ‘
chawal wale baba’ (fondly christened thus following his populist Rs 2 per kilo rice scheme) has been under tremendous pressure over deepening Naxal violence paralysing his state.

His critics, especially from the Congress, feel that he has failed to curb the menace. At the same time his supporters argue that things would have been far worse if he had not been at the helm of affairs, and he has the potential to tackle difficult situations even on a ‘larger stage’.

Interestingly, the ayurvedic doctor has not given any preference for an elevation and has certainly not omitted any of his counterpart’s photographs from campaign posters!

As such, he has the credentials, but not much of magnetism beyond his state boundaries. 

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Image: Raman Singh
Photographs: Courtesy BJP website

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Yashwant Sinha: The lethal missile

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The former finance minister unquestionably possesses ministerial and diplomatic experience at the highest level.

However, the former IAS officer and professor’s ties with some in the BJP have not been smooth, to say the least.

One of the BJP’s most lethal missiles, which it frequently uses to attack the Congress-led government at the Centre, Sinha may emerge as a serious contender for the PM’s post if the leader-cum-academician manages to rope in all sections of his party and guards himself from a fresh bout of what he calls ‘NaMonia’.

For now, the frontbencher seems to be an underdog.

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Image: Yashwant Sinha
Photographs: Courtesy BJP website

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M M Joshi: Hindutva's best friend, Modi's... not so much!

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Yet another BJP leader who believes that ‘age is just a number’, 79-year-old Murli Manohar Joshi remains one of the most unapologetically right-wing leaders of the saffron party.

The fiery BJP leader last dominated headlines a couple of years ago when, as the chief of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, he refused to let the Congress and its allied parties relegate the 2G scam to the backburner.

He has maintained a low profile since the recent elevation of Narendra Modi within the BJP ranks.

Joshi reportedly shares Advani’s apprehensions about projecting the controversial Gujarat chief minister as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

It may be too early to sign Joshi off as a potential PM candidate. As a member of both the BJP’s Central Parliamentary Board and the Election Campaign Committee, Joshi wields enough power within the party ranks.

He is also the darling of the Sangh Parivar, particularly the RSS, which probably still remembers Joshi’s attempts to ‘nationalise and spiritualise’ education during his tenure as the human resources development minister in the NDA regime.

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Image: Murli Manohar Joshi
Photographs: Courtesy BJP website

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L K Advani: Bhishma Pitamah

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The 85-year-old patriarch is probably one of the longest waiting prime ministerial candidates in the country.

A first generation leader, he has been with the saffron party from the word go.

Credit Advani for making the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s hardline Hinduism acceptable to
aam India and for driving the BJP to single digits in 1984 to a force to reckon with.

Ironically, today he is out of step with both the parent organisation as well as the BJP. 

Could he rank among the BJP’s top 10 for 2014? As they say, in politics nothing is ever final.

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Image: Lal Krishna Advani
Photographs: Courtesy BJP website

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Narendra Modi: The momentum is with him

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The BJP may have not formally announced its prime ministerial candidate for 2014, but it has not really kept anyone guessing either. The Gujarat chief minister is the party’s top pick and this it has made clear in ways tacit.

Elevated to the helm of the BJP’s election campaign, he is party’s mascot for the polls, and presumably its prime ministerial candidate. That, at least, is what the rank and file expect and hope for.

Modi has the charisma, he’s a crowd-puller, he’s controversial, and has the knack of grabbing headlines few others can match. He makes Indians curious, very curious and he makes even the poll ratings interesting.

His popularity among his peers seems unmatched – but it is yet to be tested on the national stage. He is an impressive orator who knows what gets the crowd going. 

In theory Modi is the man, no doubt, but let’s wait for the votes to be counted?

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Image: Narendra Modi
Photographs: Courtesy BJP website

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Rajnath Singh: Big chief

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For a president of India’s second largest political party, Rajnath Singh is amazingly low-profile. He is the BJP’s ‘Mr Clean’, at least so far, and could probably be its trump card to take on the scam-tainted UPA. 

Singh prefers to keep his distance from coteries, is non-conventional for a party boss, but at the same time keeps his connect with the RSS intact.

In his second stint as president he may have maintained that “posts don’t matter”, but like other BJP leaders he too has harboured prime ministerial ambitions.

In 2006, soon after his election as party president for the first time, he had told the BJP’s national council meet, “Only I would be the bridegroom.” Now that’s a side of his we don’t get to see often. 

If the BJP decides to spring a surprise, could it be the Thakur from Uttar Pradesh?

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Image: Rajnath Singh
Photographs: Courtesy BJP website

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