Jul 24 2013, 11:10pm CDT | by IANS
Washington, July 25 — Downplaying the impact of the Narendra Modi issue on Bharatiya Janata Party's poll prospects, party president Rajnath Singh has asserted that it would have no dearth of potential allies in a post-poll scenario.
"Our first effort would be to see that BJP gets the required 272 seats (to form a government) on its own. That's our target," he told Indian media here Wednesday declining to spell out the basis of his optimism.
"But if it fell short, there would be no dearth of coalition partners," Rajnath Singh said citing the example of the BJP-led 24-party post-poll coalition government formed after the 1998 Lok Sabha poll that in his words "made history" by lasting six years.
Asked which parties was it eyeing as possible allies or if it had received feelers from any other party, he parried: "No party should disclose its poll strategy."
But would the projection of the Gujarat chief minister as party leader not pose a problem in finding allies? "No, Modi or anyone, there would be no problem" over the leadership issue, Rajnath Singh insisted.
But he hastened to add that he had never projected Modi as the party's prime ministerial candidate during his interaction with the media in New York Saturday.
It was for the party's central parliamentary board to project its prime ministerial candidate "at a suitable moment", said Rajnath Singh dressed in his trademark dhoti kurta and Nehru jacket and speaking in Hindi with party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi translating.
Asked who the contenders were for the top job in the event of BJP coming to power, he said: "There are no contenders because there has never been a race for leadership in BJP, which is the only party with such a healthy tradition."
Denying that Modi was a polarising figure, he said there was indeed a consensus within the party over the leadership of the Gujarat chief minister. "Had it not been so, would he have named Modi as the party's election campaign chief?" he asked.
"Narendra Modi is a very popular leader. A very very popular leader of my country," he added.
The BJP chief also sought to dispel the impression that he had come to the US get the visa ban lifted on the Gujarat chief minister, who has been denied a US visa since 2005 for his alleged role or inaction in 2002 Godhra riots.
"This is a US administration issue, not our issue," Rajnath Singh said though he did think it was a "paradox" that while the US Congressional Research Service had praised the leadership of Modi, the administration continued to deny him a visa.
The BJP chief said he had not taken up the visa issue in his interactions with American lawmakers or policy experts at think tanks though some of them themselves questioned the rationale of denying Modi a visa.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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