Sena changes mind on Modi, backs ‘suitable’ Sushma for PM

With Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's national ambitions officially getting BJP backing, ally Shiv Sena on Tuesday threw its weight behind Sushma Swaraj, saying it supported her as the NDA's prime ministerial candidate.

A day after senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha endorsed Modi for BJP's PM nominee, Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said, "We feel Sushma Swaraj is the suitable candidate for the PM's post." He further reminded that Bal Thackeray had also pitched for Swaraj.

In September last year, in an interview published in the party mouthpiece Saamna, the late Sena chief had said Swaraj was the only "deserving and brilliant" person who fitted the bill for the PM's post. "She's a savvy woman and will perform her job as prime minister in a forceful and decisive manner," Thackeray had said.

Later Tuesday, Raut told PTI that the debate over the choice of PM candidate was an internal matter of the BJP. "Our party president Uddhav Thackeray is of the view that the issue will be discussed in the NDA meeting and then the final decision will be taken," Raut said.

Incidentally, as recently as last month, the Sena had backed Modi for PM. Raut had then told the media, "We have no problem if Modi is declared as the NDA's PM candidate... Modi is definitely a strong leader. There is no doubt about that... He has shown the country, shown Gujarat (what he is). Who to make the PM nominee will be the NDA's decision, especially that of BJP, which is its largest party."

Sena observers attribute the party's preference for Swaraj over Modi now to the Gujarat CM's perceived closeness to MNS chief Raj Thackeray. Raj had attended Modi's swearing-in as his special invitee in Gandhinagar last month, though Uddhav was also present there.

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