Ignoring perceived opposition from veteran L K Advani and some other senior leaders,BJP today anointed Narendra Modi as its Election Campaign Committee Chairman for the 2014 polls,just short of making him the prime ministerial candidate.
The Indian Express had first reported in February 2013 that Modi will head BJP’s 2014 election campaign.
Modi,considered a polarising figure after the post-Godhra riots in 2002,was handed over the responsibility of the party’s election campaign at the two-day meeting of the National Executive from which Advani kept away citing ill health as did some other leaders including Jaswant Singh,Uma Bharati and Shatrughan Sinha.
“I want to give you a significant information. …I have announced (at the National Executive) that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as Chairman of the BJP Election Campaign Committee,keeping in mind the challenge of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and to achieve victory in the polls,” party President Rajnath Singh told the media at the conclusion of the deliberations.
The announcement,which was received with a huge round of clappoing and standing ovation in the meeting,was made in a terse statement by Singh who was flanked by Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley,former President M Venkaiah Naidu,General Secretary Ananth Kumar among others. No questions were taken at the media interaction.
“Whatever has happened has happened on the basis of consensus,” Singh said without elaborating.
The decision to plump for Modi in a crucial role came after two days of deliberations and dilemma in a virtual gamble to galvanise the cadre ignoring the claims of Advani,so far considered tallest party leader after Vajpayee.
Shortly after his anointment,Modi declared at a public meeting that Goa has been lucky for him as in 2002 he had got the “licence” to run Gujarat.
“I am confident that I will complete the task that has been entrusted to me by Rajnathji,” he said to a thunderous applause from the party cadre.
In his 45-minute address,he referred to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee but did not once take the name of Advani,who is said to be having reservations over his elevation in the party. But he had earlier tweeted that he had talked to Advani and “got his blessings”.
Ironically,it was Advani who is said to have intervened in Goa in 2002 for Modi when Vajpayee wanted his resignation in the aftermath of the post-Godhra riots.
The public meeting,which was attended by Singh,Arun Jaitley among others,was skipped by senior leader Sushma Swaraj.
At the meeting,he launched the party’s campaign for the next year’s polls attacking the Congress,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi accusing them of “non serious” governance. He promised to carry forward the “unfinished agenda” of Vajpayee.
Earlier,anointing Modi,Singh said all parties view elections as a challenge and BJP also viewed the coming Lok Sabha elections as a challenge and Modi’s elevation was done keeping in mind the need to achieve victory.
“We are absolutely sure that the Congress-led UPA government has lost the confidence of the people and are confident that the BJP will be voted to power in the 2014 elections,” he said.
Modi said in a tweet that Advani has given his “blessings” to him after Singh’s announcement.
“Spoke to Advaniji on the phone. He gave me his blessings. Honoured and extremely grateful to receive his blessings.”
“Senior leaders have reposed faith in me. We will leave no stone unturned for Congress-mukht bharat nirman (building India free of Congress). Thanks for support and blessings,” he said in another tweet message.
Today’s decision of BJP could also be seen as a gamble to perk up the party’s prospects after its defeat in two consecutive Lok Sabha elections.
Throughout the whole of yesterday,there was media speculation that the party could defer an announcement on Modi. One version was that Advani wanted that Modi should be made head of the campaign for the Assembly elections,including in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh,later this year.
Party sources said Singh resolved the dilemma after it was felt the meeting should not conclude without a “result” as it would lead to demoralisation of the cadre. Hence,the announcement was made,they said.
The announcement of Modi’s elevation towards the end of Singh’s valedictory address at the National Executive session was received with cheers and standing ovation.
One of the delegates said there was clapping for five minutes as a signal of acceptance of the decision on Modi.
Addressing the rally,Rajnath Singh demanded resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh contending that the CBI probe into coal block allocation pointed a finger at him.
Rajnath Singh wondered how a Prime Minister against whom allegations of corruption have been levelled can be a source of inspiration.
He accused Congress of giving slogans for eliminating poverty and unemployment but not fulfilling its poll promises.
“Congress has been in power for a maximum number of years post Independence. How much more time does it want to eliminate poverty and unemployment,” the BJP President asked.
Jaitley said Modi’s elevation in the party has encouraged workers to work hard towards achieving the goal of ousting Congress from power.
“Rajnath Singh’s decision has given a new dimension to politics,” he said,adding the elevation of Modi was a good beginning.
“Our goal is to oust Congress and form BJP-led government at the Centre…Well begun is half done,” Jaitley said.
Modi attacked the UPA government at the Centre and said the country needed to be free from Congress rule.
He accused Congress of taking people for granted and adopting a “non-serious” approach towards governance.
Modi said Congress did not believe in democratic institutions and was in no mood to accept the federal structure of the Constitution.
He claimed that the Congress established a National Advisory Council chaired by Sonia Gandhi to function over and above the Planning Commission.
“There was a time when Congress was in power from panchayat to Parliament. But when it began losing power in states,it never allowed other parties to complete their tenure in government by misusing Article 356 (for imposing Central rule). At times it triggered defection in opposition parties and also turned Raj Bhavans (Governor’s residence) into Congress Bhavans,” Modi claimed.
Modi accused Congress of misusing CBI claiming there was not one opposition leader left who did not have a CBI case against him.
Earlier,when reporters sought senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj’s reaction on Modi’s elevation,she declined to make any comment.
Naidu told PTI that Singh had spoken to Advani yesterday and today on the elevation of Modi. However,sources close to Advani said there was no discussion on the issue between Singh or other BJP leaders or from the RSS either today or yesterday.
Party spokesperson Siddarth Nath Singh said Rajnath Singh announced in the Executive meeting that Advani has given his consent to the decision.
Party sources said with his today’s elevation,Modi will oversee the party’s election campaign across the country for creating a national mood and enthusiasm among the party cadre and the public.
They said RSS had conveyed to BJP that it should go ahead with the announcement on Modi.
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar,who came with a demand that Modi be declared the prime ministerial candidate,said,”It is a good decision taken firmly. It is a decision of everyone and based on public opinion.”
“You should have seen the clapping after the announcement was made,” he told reporters on the reaction among delegates to Singh’s announcement.
JD(U),which is opposed to Modi being made the BJP prime ministerial candidate,sought to play down the BJP decision saying it was an internal matter of BJP as he has been made only the chief of his party’s campaign committee and not NDA.
“NDA will decide its prime ministerial candidate,” JD(U) President Sharad Yadav said.