However, the BJP leadership maintained that though Modi was an “extremely popular” leader, the party would decide on its PM candidate at an appropriate time.
“A debate has been taking place for many days now. When I travel, there is a strong demand from common people and workers that Narendra Modi should be declared the PM candidate as this will benefit the party... After careful thought, I have concluded that if the BJP declares Modi as its PM candidate, then the BJP will benefit hugely in the elections. It will have a big impact on voters. I have no doubt about this,” Sinha said today.
In an interview to The Indian Express hours before Sinha’s statement, party president Rajnath Singh, who paid floral tributes to RSS founder K B Hedgewar’s memorial in Nagpur today, said: “No one can deny that Modi is an extremely popular leader at the national level. But, the parliamentary board will take the decision on the issue of projecting a prime ministerial candidate.”
Singh later evaded a direct reply to queries about Sinha’s statement, saying he was not aware of his remarks. Responding to the question of projecting Modi as the PM candidate, he reiterated his earlier line. “In the BJP, we not only have a tradition, but a system also... for such a decision, the central parliamentary board talks and decides”.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Venkaiah Naidu, BJP’s central parliamentary board member, who said a decision in this regard would be taken at an appropriate time.
Meanwhile, ally JD(U) said it did not consider Sinha’s statement as the BJP’s official view. In a measured response, NDA convener and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav said: “Alliances are formed with great difficulty, and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha’s statement is uncalled for in the context of alliances.”
Asked how he viewed Sinha’s demand, Yadav said, “You should ask this to the BJP president or spokesperson.”
JD(U) spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Shivanand Tiwari described the remarks as Sinha’s personal view. “Whatever we had to say on the issue, our leader Nitish Kumar has already conveyed to the BJP... He has also spoken clearly about what kind of a person should be the prime ministerial candidate. So the ball is in the BJP’s court,” he said.
But, Sinha dismissed the possibility of objections by the JD(U), adding that as the BJP’s “oldest ally”, it should stay with the party.
“To target one particular person is not fair... Either the entire party is secular or the entire party is communal... Within a party, you cannot say XYZ is secular and ABC is communal and we will go with XYZ and not with ABC,” Sinha said pre-empting the response from the JD(U).
Asked about the possibility of the JD(U) quitting the alliance, Sinha said: “If any party goes, a number of parties will come.”
Sinha’s support to Modi holds significance in the wake of the fact that he had earlier raised a banner of revolt against granting a second term to Nitin Gadkari.