Modi is finally PM candidate, pledges 2014 victory

Last Updated 13 September 2013, 15:44 IST

Despite patriarch L.K. Advani's opposition, the BJP Friday formally declared Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi its prime ministerial candidate, and he promptly vowed to lead the party to victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.   

There were joyous scenes at the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters here as Modi, 62, one of the youngest in the country's political establishment, drove in to attend a meeting of the parliamentary board which decided to name him as its general for the parliamentary battle.

BJP president Rajnath Singh made the formal announcement at a media conference, and Modi pledged to do everything to ensure that the BJP again got to rule the world's largest democracy.

"I promise that in the 2014 election, the BJP will emerge victorious," a confident sounding Modi said flanked by a galaxy of senior colleagues, the notable absentee being his former mentor Advani.

"For this, the party will work hard and we will leave no stone unturned," said Modi in a brief speech after accepting sweets, bouquets and garlands from senior and junior colleagues.

He said the country was passing through a crisis and the party.

"I am sure that people from Kashmir to Kanyakumari will vote for the lotus symbol," Modi said of the BJP's election symbol.

But like in June, when Advani had revolted against the BJP's decision to name Modi its election campaign chief, the former party leader stayed away from the parliamentary board meeting to express his displeasure over the decision to make Modi the prime ministerial candidate.

Even before the Gujarat chief minister flew into New Delhi, there were hectic parleys within the BJP establishment, with Rajnath Singh holding a string of meetings to convince everyone to fall in line. And everyone did -- except Advani, formerly Modi's mentor.

A political pundit aligned with the BJP hailed Friday's decision.

"This will make a huge difference to the BJP," G.V.L. Narasimha Rao told IANS. "Across the country, there is a very, very strong wave in support of Modi, even among non-traditional BJP supporters."

Like in the case of the now ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee and later Advani, Modi's personal popularity far exceeded that of the party, Rao said.

"While the BJP got just about 18 percent of the votes in the last Lok Sabha election, Modi currently enjoys the support of more than 40 percent of voters. That will make all the difference," he said.

"This means that there is a huge mass which will vote for the BJP only if Modi leads the party. This is particularly true in critical states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar."

Modi, who once sold tea in a railway station in Gujarat, said it was a matter of pride that the BJP had catapulted him -- despite his origin from "a humble family" -- as the prime ministerial candidate.

In his four-minute speech in Hindi, Modi made it a point to pay tributes to Vajpayee and Advani.

Modi also underlined that he had the "blessings" of the BJP's allies, including the Akali Dal and Shiv Sena.

Rajnath Singh added that "all our allies ... have given their backing" to Modi's candidature.

"We have always announced prime ministerial candidates... Seeing the national mood, we have decided that Narendra Modi will be our PM candidate in the Lok Sabha election."

Once Rajnath Singh made the announcement, BJP stalwarts, including those who were said to be against the announcement earlier, offered him garlands and bouquets.

Rajnath Singh and Modi hugged one another. Modi touched the feet of former president Murli Manohar Joshi as a mark of respect.

(Published 13 September 2013, 13:13 IST)

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