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Despite grand show, few takers for Modi as future PM

Monday September 19, 2011 05:49:18 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi might be eyeing the big seat with his three-day 'sadhbhavna' fast that ended Monday, but there are few takers for the view that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader might be a contender for the prime minister's post in 2014.

The BJP is helping build "brand Modi" but internal conflicts within the party send another message entirely about the leader, held responsible for the 2002 riots that killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in his state. The sectarian violence and its aftermath still cast a dark shadow, making Modi unacceptable to many across the political spectrum despite his image as an able administrator.

"BJP sees an opportunity in Modi. They are trying to build 'brand Modi', which depicts development, anti-corruption, and progress... However, the biggest challenge for Modi is to be able to deal with the 2002 riots, which are actually a blot on the nation's secular fabric," said Sandeep Shastri, pro vice chancellor, Jain University, and director, International Academy for Creative Teaching at Bangalore.

The BJP, while making a clear attempt to cash on the popularity, neither confirms nor denies the possibility of Modi being its prime ministerial candidate. The buzz had intensified after the US Congressional Research Service had said in a report that he could be in the reckoning for the post.

"The Sadbhavna mission is not an exercise to project Modi as a prime ministerial candidate," party leader Balbir Punj told IANS. "All the same, he is definitely proven prime minister material."

But tensions simmer below the surface of the official calm.

A highly placed source from the party said it was difficult to project Modi as the prime ministerial candidate as there were several other senior leaders adverse to the idea.

"While it is true that Modi is popular with certain sections, and has large backing from the corporate class, it is difficult for him to be prime minister," the source said.

Key National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner Janata Dal-United has also made it abundantly clear that it does not endorse Modi or his politics.

Political observers agree that internal conflicts in the party are too great for allowing Modi to emerge in such a big role.

"There is no chance for Modi to become the prime minister in 2014," said Nisar ul Haz, head of the department of political science in Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia university.

"I think there will be a hard race for prime ministership within the BJP. L.K. Advani will not leave his claim so easily. There are lot of other contenders in BJP like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and seniors who will not allow Modi," he added, stressing that the communal card would work against him.

Though the much publicised three-day fast, which began on Modi's 61st birthday Sep 17, has largely been seen as an attempt towards image correction aimed at a bigger role in the centre, experts and political leaders say it is not enough.

According to Congress spokesperson, any citizen could aspire to any post but there were many aspirants within the BJP itself.

"Delhi is far (for Modi)," he said, in an adaptation of an old Hindi adage.

Communist party of India-Marxist (CPIM) leader Brinda Karat said the fast was adding salt to wounds.

"As far as Modi's hunger strike is concerned, it is not a balm but adding salt to wounds. The basic issue here is not if Modi sits on fast, the issue is if he is going to bring justice to victims," she said.

Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Zoya Hasan asked whether the BJP was projecting Modi or was he doing it himself.

"He seems to be writer, producer, actor of this big drama show mounted by him. It is clear he is looking beyond Gujarat but without slightest reflection of remorse," she said.

"Possibility of 'sadbhavana' (amity) is very limited," she added.




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