Ahemdabad: With major poll surveys predicting a landslide for the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat, speculations are rife that the hardline Hindutva leader may well be projected as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 General Election.
Lending credence to the speculation are the predictions by major poll surveys that Modi government will improve its 2007 tally and the main opposition Congress will sink further.
If the outcome of the Assembly elections in Gujarat match the expectations, it will be the fifth consecutive victory of the ruling BJP in Gujarat- two under Keshubhai Patel and three under Modi.
Moreover, if the ruling party manages to improve its 2002 and 2007 tally, it will further enhance Modi’s stature in the BJP and increase his political weight as an ideal challenger to Congress scion Rahul Gandhi if the two are projected as the prime ministerial candidate from their respective parties.
A good show in Gujarat will eventually make Modi the first among equals in the BJP. The absence of any worthwhile challenger may even compel the BJP central leadership to prepare Modi for a larger role in the national politics.
However, the main opposition party is also aware of the risks it faces in projecting Modi as its prime ministerial candidate given his image of an anti-minority leader.
While a section of BJP leaders believe that only Modi can reinvigorate the Hindu nationalist party, there is an equally strong lobby which opposes him on grounds that it will distract the minorities.
For BJP, having Modi as its prime ministerial candidate could throttle the party`s efforts to recapture lost ground in northern states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which have a sizable chunk of Muslims.
BJP also risks losing key allies it needs to form a national government. Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar would probably shun a BJP-led coalition with Modi at the helm.