NEW DELHI: His rise from an obscure party worker to a powerful political brand has been meteoritic and now Narendra Modi has national affairs on his menu as he is all set to play a major role in the Bharatiya Janata Party, focusing on the forthcoming 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
This was seconded by veteran BJP leader Yashwant Sinha when he endorsed the Gujarat chief minister as BJP's prime ministerial candidate in the next general election.
"Wherever I go, the common people and party workers say they want Narendra Modi to be the prime minister candidate from BJP," Yashwant Sinha told IANS.
"After considering all aspects, I too feel if BJP declares him as the prime minister candidate, it will make a huge difference to the party," he said.
According to CNN-IBN, Modi could be made the chairman of the BJP campaign committee.
On Sunday, Modi met the newly appointed party president Rajnath Singh and had a detailed discussion signifying his increasing national role.
The meeting, which took place over lunch at Rajnath's residence, lasted more than two hours and was described as "fruitful" by the Gujarat chief minister in a tweet.
After the two-hour meeting, the two leaders said they mainly discussed the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but refused to give any details.
"We sat together for a couple of hours and discussed Gujarat and the 2014 elections," Singh told reporters, adding: "The day I was elected party president, Narendra bhai called me and congratulated me. He said he would come to Delhi and meet me."
Modi, who visited Singh at his residence, said: "I sought his (Singh's) guidance for what more should the BJP do to serve the people in Gujarat and the people of India. We also had detailed discussions on the coming general elections."
The BJP described the meeting as a courtesy call.
Asked if the meeting had any connection to Modi being the party's potential prime ministerial candidate, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: "At the moment, its just that they met and talked about 2014. There is nothing more to it. Modi is a three-time chief minister of Gujarat. It was a courtesy call."
BJP sources said the issues ranged from the crisis in the party in Karnataka that goes to polls in April-May, Jharkhand and a slew of state elections at the end of the year that will pit the BJP and the Congress in a direct fight. On 2014, they spoke of the prospect of the BJP replacing the Congress at the Centre, but in a coalition and not on its own, the sources added.
The sources claimed Rajnath stressed the importance of strengthening the NDA coalition and adding more allies. While few in the BJP challenge the perception that Modi would easily outrank his peers if a popularity contest was held, the tricky point was whether he was acceptable ' not just to the existing allies but to prospective ones as well.
Time and again, the Janata Dal (United) had said if Modi was projected as the BJP's face for Prime Minister, it would walk out of the NDA "in minutes". However, it is learnt that barring a couple of BJP leaders supposedly eyeing the Prime Minister's post, the rest have come round to the view that if it came to foregrounding Modi, the BJP should not be "swayed" by the Dal (United)'s threats.
Can Modi be a mass leader?
Although Modi has been severely censured for not arresting the riots that lead to the massacre of hundreds of Muslims, such criticism only cemented his image as a leader who had 'protected' Hindus. For many Indians he is a possible prime minister and for others he is a Hindu zealot. Surprisingly, although he has mostly remained confined to Gujarat, Modi has takers in all parts of the country.
His appeal is widespread: some see him as a national security hero and for some he is a development man, but what is baffling is that the Bharatiya Janata Party does not seem too eager to project him as its prime ministerial candidate. Analysts believe that such a move could botch up the party's chances to come back to power at the Centre.
The problem for Modi is that he is still remembered for being in office during the Gujarat riots in 2002 and for years Modi was a political pariah, vilified at home and shunned by the West. A policy turnaround on London's part to renew political ties with Gujarat has come as a major boost for Modi's quest to be accepted as a mainstream political leader. Many of his critics say despite his attempts to refurbish his image, the ghosts of Godhra will continue to haunt him.