BJP to debate Lok Sabha polls, PM candidate

Panaji, June 5 (IANS) Who will be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls? This is likely to be debated when leaders of the party meet in the Goan capital Friday to Sunday.

While the office bearers will gather Friday, the national executive will meet Saturday and Sunday at the Marriott hotel here to discuss, among other things, a range of issues including the election strategy.

Senior party leaders told IANS that the time had come to start projecting someone as the prime ministerial candidate.

"There is a feeling in the party that a decision on the prime ministerial candidate should be taken now," said a Bharatiya Janata Party leader who did not want to be identified by name.

"A decision should be taken, whether a leader has to be projected, and who it would be," added the general secretary.

It won't be an easy task though.

There are known differences within the main opposition party on who could be projected as a future prime minister.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has ruled the state since 2001, has not hidden his ambition -- nor have his supporters within and outside the party.

Although he is a charismatic crowd puller, not everyone in the BJP -- or the larger Sangh Parivar -- is comfortable with him.

BJP leader and former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani recently rocked the Modi boat by comparing Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan with the iconic and former prime minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee.

BJP president Rajnath Singh immediately clarified that Advani's comments had been "misinterpreted" -- after the media reported that Advani had come out against Modi.

Others have floated the names of Advani, who was the prime ministerial contender in 2009, and Sushma Swaraj, the opposition leader in the Lok Sabha, as possible prime ministerial hopefuls.

The BJP, which ruled India from 1998 to 2004 and lost the 2009 Lok Sabha battle, has also to contend with the Janata Dal-United (JD-U).

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has made known his distaste for Modi but he has no problem, as yet, with the BJP per se.

Another BJP national executive member said the focus of the June 7-9 meet would be on the overall strategy for the next Lok Sabha election.

The BJP today rules four states -- Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Goa -- and is a junior partner in Bihar and Punjab.

Although BJP leaders are supremely confident of worsting the Congress in the Lok Sabha clash, the BJP itself was routed in Karnataka, its supposed bastion in the country's south, last month.

The BJP also has to contend with regional parties in states where it wields influence. The party also would like to stitch more alliances ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

The national executive has nearly 300 members, appointed by the party president. These include key party leaders like chief ministers, MPs, ex-MPs and state party presidents.

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