Yashwant backs Modi as PM, Rajnath says party will decide


A day after Narendra Modi met BJP president Rajnath Singh to discuss the 2014 elections and how he could "serve the country", senior party leader Yashwant Sinha raised the pitch on Monday, saying the Gujarat chief minister should be declared the party's prime ministerial candidate.

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."

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