Finally, Narendra Modi has had it his way. After dodging for months and amid high political drama, the right wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in India has formally announced that the controversial Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will be the party's Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 central-level general elections. The announcement made by party President Rajnath Singh, at the party headquarters, on Friday evening, came after a meeting of the Parliamentary Board. In making the announcement, the BJP leadership has brushed aside objections raised its senior leader and founding member L. K. Advani.
Thanking the party, its leaders and workers, Modi said he will work shoulder-to-shoulder with all the senior leaders and grassroot workers.
"I have come from very humble beginnings and I am happy at this nomination."
No stone unturned, but India is not Gujarat
No stone will be left unturned to win the forthcoming elections and ensure BJP win in 2014, he told the elated party functionaries and party workers who rejoiced on the streets. He also sought the cooperation and support of allies in the BJP-led the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a centre-right coalition of political parties.
After its creation in 1998, the coalition bagged power in elections held the same year and completed its full term in 2004. However, since 2004, the BJP and its coalition partners have been in the cold with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) under incumbent Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh wining two terms in office.
With the anointment of Narendra Modi, the party hopes revive it fortunes by capitalising on the development that he claims to achieve in his home-state, Gujarat. With investors from India and the world flocking into his state, and a string of foreign delegations wanting to meet him, the BJP hopes the Gujarat Chief Minister will be able to replicate his state-level success at the national-level. However critics of Chief Minister Modi, allege he is flourishing on PR tricks. India is not Gujarat they say.
Addressing party members after his appointment, Modi said his focus will be on price rise and exposing a series of scams that has plagued the Congress-led government in the centre.
Even as the announcement of Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate was being made, the senior leader L. K. Advani, who built the BJP, found himself, lonely and isolated. In a letter to party president Rajnath Singh, Advani had made his objections on Modi's anointment clear.
"I debated, then decided against attending the meeting; I am disappointed with your functioning," he told the BJP chief. Advani added that he is 'disappointed' with the manner in which Modi has been selected.
Advani has maintained that announcing Modi's name will give the Congress an escape route from all the scams and corruption charges. Modi is a polarising figure in India. The Congress has pinned down the controversial Chief Minister for his alleged anti-minority bearing. Congress-led UPA partners can be expected to again rake up the case of Gujarat Hindu-Muslim riots to galvanise minority voters against the BJP.
Modi is accused of failing to stop the 2002 riots after reports that 54 Hindu pilgrims had been killed when Muslims set fire to their train at Godhra. According to the official figures, the riots resulted in the deaths of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus. It left 2,500 people injured and 223 missing. However NGOs and activists have estimated that the over 2000 Muslims died in the violence.
Therefore, Advani had also said that Modi's name should be announced only after the Assembly elections in states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi in November. He had also suggested that the BJP Chief Ministers should also be consulted on this issue. Despite a series of meetings, party president Singh was not able to placate Advani, who once had said that naming Modi now would be a disaster.
Registering his serious objections, Advani boycotted the parliamentary board meeting on Friday where the announcement of Modi as Prime Ministerial candidate was made.
Experts believe that now with Modi taking centre-stage, the isolation of Advani would be complete.
To contact the editor, e-mail: