Brushing aside reservations of patriarch LK Advani and some other senior leaders, the BJP on Sunday anointed Narendra Modi as chairman of its Election Campaign Committee for the 2014 polls, a move considered just short of making him the prime ministerial candidate.
"I want to give you a significant information. ...I have announced (at the National Executive) that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as chairman of the BJP Election Campaign Committee, keeping in mind the challenge of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and to achieve victory in the polls," party President Rajnath Singh told the media at the conclusion of its 2-day deliberations.
The announcement was made in a terse statement by Singh who was flanked by leaders of Opposition in Parliament Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, former president M Venkaiah Naidu, general secretary Ananth Kumar among others. No questions were taken at the media interaction.
"Whatever has happened has happened on the basis of consensus," Singh said without elaborating. The decision to appoint 63-year-old Modi came against the backdrop of Advani, who is said to be strongly opposed to the elevation of Modi, keeping away from the meeting.
Several other leaders including Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Uma Bharati and Shatrughan Sinha, who are also said to be reportedly having reservations on Modi's elevation, also kept away from the Executive meeting.
After two days of deliberations and dilemma, the party appears to have taken the plunge by plumping for Modi in a crucial role, ignoring reservations from leaders like Advani, the tallest leader after Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Singh said all parties view elections as a challenge and BJP also viewed the coming Lok Sabha elections as a challenge and Modi's elevation was done keeping in mind the need to achieve victory.
"We are absolutely sure that the Congress-led UPA government has lost the confidence of the people and are confident that the BJP will be voted to power in the 2014 elections," he said.
Modi, considered a polarising figure in the country's politics after the 2002 post-Godhra riots which his detractors alleged had happened with his sanction as chief minister, said in a tweet that Advani has given his "blessings" to him after Singh's announcement.
"Spoke to Advaniji on the phone. He gave me his blessings. Honoured and extremely grateful to receive his blessings."
"Senior leaders have reposed faith in me. We will leave no stone unturned for Congress-mukht bharat nirman (building India free of Congress). Thanks for support and blessings," he said in another tweet message.
Today's decision of BJP could be seen as a gamble to perk up the party's prospects after its defeat in two consecutive Lok Sabha elections.
BJP President Rajnath Singh along with party leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Murli Manohar Joshi, Venkaiah Naidu and others pose for photographs with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on his election as Chairman of the Election Campaign Committee for the 2014 Lok Sabha Election in Panaji. UNI photo
Throughout the whole of Saturday, there was media speculation that the party could defer an announcement on Modi. One version was that Advani wanted that Modi should be made head of the campaign for the Assembly elections, including in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, later this year.
Party sources said Singh resolved the dilemma after it was felt the meeting should not conclude without a "result" as it would lead to demoralisation of the cadre. Hence, the announcement was made, they said.
The announcement of Modi's elevation towards the end of Singh's valedictory address at the National Executive session was received with cheers and standing ovation.
One of the delegates said there was clapping for five minutes as a signal of acceptance of the decision on Modi.
Swaraj declined to make any comments when reporters sought her reaction to Singh's announcement.
Naidu told PTI that Singh had spoken to Advani yesterday and today on the elevation of Modi. However, sources close to Advani said there was no discussion on the issue between Singh or other BJP leaders or from the RSS either today or yesterday.
Party spokesperson Siddarthnath Singh said Rajnath Singh announced in the Executive meeting that Advani has given his consent to the decision.
Party sources said with his Sunday's elevation Modi will oversee the party's election campaign across the country for creating a national mood and enthusiasm among the party cadre and the public.
They said that the RSS had conveyed to the BJP that it should go ahead with the announcement on Modi.
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who has come with a demand that Modi be declared the prime ministerial candidate, said "it is a good decision taken firmly. It is a decision of everyone and based on public opinion".
"You should have seen the clapping after the announcement was made," he told reporters on the reaction among the delegates to Singh's announcement.
JD(U), which is opposed to Modi being made the BJP prime ministerial candidate, sought to play down the BJP decision saying it was an internal matter of BJP as he has been made only the chief of his party's campaign committee and not NDA.
"The NDA will decide its prime ministerial candidate," JD(U) President Sharad Yadav said in his reaction.
Soon after the announcement, Narendra Modi tweeted, that he spoke to LK Advani and that the senior leader blessed him.