New Delhi: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has scored a hat-trick in the state Assembly elections with the Bharatiya Janata Party winning just short of its 2007 tally of 117 seats, while the Congress was one better at 61. With this win, the big question now is as to what does this mean for national politics.
Some within the BJP like Smriti Irani want him to play a bigger role at the Centre and some like Tarun Vijay compared him to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but Arun Jaitley remained non-committal. "He is one of the tallest leaders across parties, my vote for the Prime Minister would go to Modi, but the party will decide," Smriti Irani said.
BJP leader Tarun Vijay added, "Narendra Modi has proved himself in Gujarat through his development mantra. What Vajpayee did at the Centre, Modi got through his development in Gujarat. Modi is the best suitable candidate for prime ministership."
When asked whether the BJP needed to tell this country who is going lead the party, senior party leader Arun Jaitley said, "I have not the least doubt that we have to decide it reasonably in advance before the next elections. One of the issues that confronts us is we have a galaxy of leadership. There are several leaders like Modi who hav proved themselves, there are others also. The party will take all the factors into consideration when it takes a decision."
On the chances of Narendra Modi becoming the prime ministerial candidate, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said "BJP leadership will take a decision on this during the general elections to be held in 2014."
Meanwhile, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose party, JD(U) is in an uneasy alliance with the BJP avoided commenting on Modi's victory. However, JD(U) said the victory has strengthened NDA at the national level. "BJP's victory in Gujarat will strengthen NDA at the national level ... this astounding victory proves the anti-Congress trend among masses in the country," state JD(U) President Vashist Narayan Singh said.
On Narendra Modi becoming PM, the JD(U) state chief said there was no point talking about it at this point of time. "The bigger party has an important role in a coalition and the NDA PM candidate will be selected at right time," he said. He said his party has already made its stand on NDA PM candidate clear that the nominee should have a secular image from a bigger party within the coalition which was sympathetic towards a developing state like Bihar.
Narendra Modi, a development-oriented and clean leader for his supporters and a despicable politician for his opponents, is clearly eyeing a bigger role in national politics.
In his victory speech delivered in Hindi at a rally in Ahmedabad for the benefit of a larger national audience, Modi dedicated his win to not only the six crore Gujaratis but also added that it was for all those who wanted good governance, development and a corruption-free administration. "Political pundits can discuss Modi all they want, but today's hero is the six-crore strong electorate of Gujarat," said Modi.
Stressing that his only aim was the betterment of the state in every sphere, Modi said that he is going to dedicate the next five years to the public of Gujarat.
Claiming that BJP's victory in Gujarat is a victory for all Indians, Modi said, "By serving Gujarat, I serve India. The results of the Gujarat elections have proved that the voters in the country know what is right and what is wrong. The voters in Gujarat don't want the situation they faced in the 80s."
Modi only smiled when his supporters chanted, "PM, PM," after he mentioned that he would be visiting New Delhi on December 27, a day after his swearing-in ceremony as Gujarat Chief Minister. Modi also asked his supporters to forgive him if he had made any mistake in the past, and said, "If I have made any mistakes, forgive me. Give me your blessings so I make no mistakes in the future." Calling his win a victory of all the Indians, Modi stated, "BJP's Gujarat victory is a victory for all Indians. People have voted keeping their future in mind."
His hat-trick of victories, which saw the BJP winning for the fifth consecutive time in Gujarat, has certainly made him one of the strongest leaders in the party and propelled him as a strong contender in the Prime Ministerial race in 2014. With the BJP in a state of disarray on the national stage, a strong Modi could be the glue to hold the party together in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections even though some allies of his party have openly expressed their displeasure against anointing him as the prime ministerial candidate due to his alleged role in the 2002 post-Godhra violence in which over 1,000 people were killed in Gujarat.
The 62-year-old Modi's opponents have not only charged him with being anti-minority, but also claimed that his development agenda is actually a mask for his pro-Hindutva ideology. They also point out that he has never made any attempt to apologise or express regret over 2002 carnage in the state.
(With additional information from PTI)Tweets by @narendramodi