Jaitley declines comment on Modi versus Rahul debate

Bangalore, April 9 (IANS) Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley Tuesday declined comment on the Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi as-prime-ministerial-candidates debate but described the Gujarat chief minister as "an extremely popular" leader.

"I am not getting into the debate on individuals. The fact is he (Modi) is an extremely popular leader and his views are heard with great attention," Jaitley told reporters on arrival here for talks with Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Karnataka unit leaders on preparations for the May 5 assembly polls.

On BJP's prospects in the Karnataka assembly polls, Jaitley said the party would do well.

Jaitley was in-charge of the party in the last assembly elections in 2008 when it came to power for the first time in the state.

However, unlike in 2008, the party goes to the next month's poll with its five-year rule marred by corruption scandals, infighting and its first chief minister in the state B.S. Yeddyurappa breaking away to head the Karnataka Janata Party.

But Jaitley was confident that the infighting and Yeddyurappa forming his own outfit would not have any bearing on the BJP's prospects.

He said the party had "overcome the challenges" and the focus would be on development. Jaitley said BJP's central leaders and chief ministers would campaign for the party in the state.

Jaitley was to address a BJP rally here Monday along with party president Rajnath Singh and party colleague Sushma Swaraj.

But the aircraft in which they were flying to Bangalore from New Delhi developed a snag after taking off which forced them to stay away from the rally. Rajnath Singh, however, addressed the rally via video conference.

The BJP has announced the first list of 140 candidates and the second list of remaining 84 nominees is being finalised by state leaders in talks with the party central leaders.

Nominations for the single-phase poll to elect 224 members of the 225-member house open Wednesday and close April 17. The result will be out May 8. One member is nominated to represent the Anglo-Indian community.

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