The Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday announced that its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
Way back in May 2012, Rediff.com’s Sheela Bhatt had said that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was likely to contest the next Lok Sabha election from Uttar Pradesh. We reproduce that exclusive interview.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is likely to contest the next Lok Sabha election from both Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, whenever the general election takes place, before 2014 or in the summer of 2014.
An informed source in Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party felt the national media has no clue about the BJP's inner-working style. "Modi is the general without whom one cannot go to war," the senior party leader told Rediff.com, on condition that he would not be identified by name for this report.
"Modi has to lead the BJP. There is no alternative."
There is a belief in the BJP, the source added, that if Modi won this winter's assembly election in Gujarat with 110 or more of the state's 182 seats, then there is no way he can be stopped from taking on bigger responsibility in New Delhi.
When asked if this meant that Modi would be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate in the next general election, the BJP source demurred, adding, "the party will decide about that when it is time for it. That issue will take its own time. In the BJP such decisions are taken collectively. But Modi's leadership qualities cannot be ignored."
"The BJP is all set to gain substantially over the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha election," the source, who is supportive of both party President Nitin Gadkari and Modi, said.
"The media is not projecting enough the people's ire over price rise and corruption. Modi's so-called Hindutva image is not and cannot be a worry for the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP's parent organisation), obviously. We want someone who can galvanise the cadres to take on the Congress's corrupt rule. Modi has that capacity."
Asked about the perception that Modi's presence in a national electoral campaign would divide the Indian electorate, the BJP source replied, "The media is not seeing the trend. The anti-Congress mood in the country is as strong as 1977! Modi's leadership will get some 40 more seats for the BJP. I have no doubt that the Congress will lose more than 100 seats that it currently holds."
The Congress, then led by Indira Gandhi, was routed by the Janata Party, a combine of Opposition parties, in the 1977 general election that was held after the 19-month state of Emergency in India ended.
He agreed that Muslims would support the Congress overwhelmingly if Modi ascended the national stage, but added that BJP strategists assess that in the Muslim-dominated Lok Sabha constituencies in the country, the BJP and Congress are not pitted against each other in most, except in Uttar Pradesh.
BJP analysts, he added, believe, the party will gain some 15% seats due to sharp polarization of the vote in the 120 plus Muslim-dominated Lok Sabha seats.
What about Modi's dictatorial style of governance which could be a major hurdle on the national stage, this correspondent asked. "Which Indian leader has not been dictatorial?" the BJP leader responded. "Indira Gandhi? Atal Bihari Vajpayee also had his own way. Without sullying his public image Vajpayee did what he wanted to do. Don't we know he sacked Balraj Madhok and Govindacharya from the party?"
"What is the Sangh Parivar's top priority?" he asked. "To see that the Congress is defeated in the next election!"
After his recent showdown with Gadkari over the Sanjay Joshi episode, there is little doubt that Modi is keen to join national politics, but there is stiff resistance to this possibility within the BJP. Party president Gadkari remains a challenger to Modi's ambitions.
Modi has also to logically answer party leaders how the BJP will cajole and persuade -- if it emerges the single largest party in the next Lok Sabha election -- leaders like the Janata Dal-United's Nitish Kumar, the Biju Janata Dal's Naveen Patnaik and the Telugu Desam Party's Nara Chandrababu Naidu to accept Modi as the leader if their support is crucial to form a coalition government.
The BJP and RSS are likely to take up the issue of leadership only after the assembly elections in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh conclude in the winter of 2013.
But Narendra Modi is impatient to become a national leader. He does not want to miss his chance in the coming general election due to the enormous popular upsurge against the United Progressive Alliance government over price rise and corruption.
Image: Narendra Modi addressing a rally in Jaipur
Photograph: Rohit Jain Paras