BJP to decide PM candidate 'soon'

New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) There is "no question mark" on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the party will "soon" decide its prime ministerial candidate, BJP president Rajnath Singh has said.

"The decision on the prime ministerial candidate will be taken at the right time and it may be soon," Rajnath Singh told IANS in an exclusive interview here.

Asked if Modi could be the party's choice for the prime minister's post ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha battle, he refused to make a comment but said Modi's popularity cannot be denied.

"There is no question mark on the popularity of Modi."

What about the reservations against Modi expressed by ally Janata Dal- United? "We are old allies, the alliance is strong. If there is a difference, we will sit and talk and sort it out."

In 2009, the BJP projected L.K. Advani as its prime ministerial candidate, but the Congress won the election.

Amid speculation on who the BJP would project as its prime ministerial candidate, Rajnath Singh, MP from Ghaziabad, told his party colleagues not to comment on the subject after taking charge in January.

The 61-year-old said the BJP was hopeful of forging new alliances.

"New pre-poll alliances can be formed. If a party gets good numbers, many alliance partners join after the polls as well," he said.

He said the BJP was confident of getting more than 180 seats in the next Lok Sabha election.

The BJP won 179 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha in 1998 under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee following which the National Democratic Alliance led by it took power. It won 183 seats in 1999.

"We can even get more than 180 seats. Surveys are showing the situation is in our favour," he said.

"We will get good number of seats in Uttar Pradesh, our target is 35 to 40."

Asked about the 2009 Lok Sabha poll debacle, Rajnath Singh said the situation had changed a lot since then.

"In UPA I, there were not so many charges against the government as with UPA II. There was inflation, but people had hope things will improve. This time the situation is different, people have lost faith."

The BJP's recent electoral defeat in Karnataka would not affect the national mood, he said, adding his party would "evaluate" what went wrong in the state.

He added that there was no proposal for now of reconciling with B.S. Yeddyurappa, the first BJP chief minister in Karnataka whose decision to split the BJP contributed to the latter's debacle.

Rajnath Singh made it clear that the BJP would not try to pull down the Manmohan Singh government.

He ruled out the possibilities of a Third Front emerging. "The Third front experiment has never been successful."

Rajnath Singh said the Congress-led UPA government was an all round failure.

"There is inflation, fiscal deficit, the value of the rupee is falling against dollar, there is a constant increase in income disparity and slowdown in industrial sector... People are tired of all this.

"They have seen the performance of the BJP-led NDA government. People feel that only NDA can provide good governance," he said.

(Anjali Ojha and Prashant Sood can be contacted at anjali.o@ians.in, prashant.s@ians.in)

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