Notwithstanding the declaration by some top industrialists that Narendra Modi is prime minister material, the Gujarat chief minister is not India Inc's chosen one for the top job. They repose faith in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
According to a poll of senior business executives across the country by Hindustan Times-Cfore, Modi comes fourth in their list of preferences. He loses out to even young Congress MP Rahul Gandhi.
Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate LK Advani comes a close second to Manmohan Singh in the poll, while Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary, is third.
The poll was held through Thursday and Friday - after two top industrialists backed Modi as prime ministerial candidate during the Vibrant Gujarat Investor's meet in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.
The HT-Cfore poll that covered 226 senior executives across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad found that a majority of business leaders preferred to trade enthusiasm for experience, especially in times of crisis.
India's 76-year-old prime minister, Manmohan Singh, won 25 per cent votes, while 81-year-old BJP stalwart Advani got 23 per cent votes.
Modi, 58, bagged 12 per cent votes, while Rahul Gandhi, who is 20 years his junior at 38, was the choice of 14 per cent of the business executives surveyed.
"Industry looks for values, leadership qualities and the ability to guide the country through the tough times that we are experiencing now," said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry.
When it comes to the prime minister's job, Banerjee said: "We look for the same attributes as every citizen does."
Industrialists Anil Ambani and Sunil Bharti Mittal had, while heaping praise on Modi, said Wednesday that he had the qualities to be prime minister.
The BJP went out of its way to downplay the statements, reasserting that Advani was the party's and the National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) prime ministerial candidate.
On Saturday, Modi put all speculation to rest, saying that he wasn't in the race. "After the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP will come to power and LK Advani will be the prime minister," Modi said at a meeting in Halol, Gujarat.