As Modi looms large, BJP looks larger: ‘Fifth straight win for party’

Narendra Modi

AS Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi sought to drive home the import of his "hat-trick" victory on Thursday, in his address to supporters after the results were announced, the BJP leadership in Delhi skirted the issue of whether it was time for the rising state satrap to play a national role. What it repeatedly underlined instead was that it was the "fifth consecutive victory" for the BJP in the state.

"We have won five consecutive elections in Gujarat, three of them under the leadership of Narendra Modi," Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley told reporters. "This is the 2012 election and this settles the issue of 2012. The issues related to 2014 will be discussed and decided when the situation warrants," he added in response to a query.

It appears that this was part of a careful media strategy worked out by the party to "not fall into the trap" of queries around Modi as PM on Thursday.

However, Gujarat being the first hat-trick victory of any BJP leader, the central leadership of the party will find it difficult to ward off Modi's claim for greater say in the party's national affairs leading up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Another leader, in this context, indicated the relief in Delhi leadership that Modi did not outperform himself this time. "Had it been 140 seats or more, there would have been immense pressure and short deadlines to declare Modi as first among equals," confided a central BJP leader.

Barring minor slips or lapses, BJP talking heads on TV channels managed to dodge queries on prime ministership through the day on Thursday, despite persistent attempts by journalists to draw a response.

They chose to highlight other issues — that the BJP is unlike the Congress and its dynastic leadership; that the BJP will take an appropriate decision at an appropriate time; that this was the fifth consecutive defeat of the Congress in Gujarat (including 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2012); that Modi has been a "national leader", having been the BJP national general secretary; and that he has been the party's national campaigner. "Please do not deny us the luxury of celebrating Gujarat's victory today," BJP leaders urged.

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