Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, projected by many within the BJP as the next prime ministerial candidate, on Saturday grabbed the limelight at the National Council Meet in New Delhi with party president Rajnath Singh lauding him for three consecutive victories in assembly polls.
Modi's popularity among the BJP office-bearers from across the country, who have gathered for the conclave, was apparent with the crowd breaking into applause each time his name was mentioned.
Though the main task before this National Council is the ratification of Rajnath Singh's presidentship and no announcement of a national role for Modi is in the offing, the Gujarat chief minister was the star of the meet.
Delhi BJP chief Vijay Goel set the stage when he announced that it appears as if not Manmohan Singh but Modi is the prime minister of the country.
"Though the prime ministerial candidate will be chosen later it appears as if he (Modi) is the PM," Goel said about the Gujarat chief minister which was welcomed with a round of applause from the audience.
At the beginning of his 95-minute long inaugural speech, party president Rajnath Singh accorded a special welcome to Modi by asking the 2,200-strong crowd to give him a standing ovation for his third consecutive assembly election victory, which is unprecedented for any BJP chief minister.
"He has made a hat-trick. We were delighted to hear about his victory. We had never seen a BJP chief minister win three consecutive terms. His development model has been lauded by all, even at the international forum. Be it the US or the European Union all have praised his good governance," Singh said.
"It won't be proper to welcome Modi with mere words. He deserves a good round of applause, a standing ovation," the BJP president said. He garlanded Modi amid slogan shouting by enthusiastic party members.
The party top brass, comprising of Central leaders as well as chief ministers seated on the dais, were on their feet and and clapped for Modi.
Though Rajnath Singh tried a balancing act towards the end of his speech by praising other chief ministers, Modi appeared to be the favourite with the crowd.
The BJP president said he was confident that Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Raman Singh will also win three consecutive elections when assembly polls are held later this year in the two states.
Singh also exhorted party leaders assembled at the National Council, which is meeting to chalk out its roadmap for the upcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Delhi and Jharkhand, as well as the general elections slated for 2014, to bury their differences and fight unitedly.
Modi and Chouhan will make their presentations tomorrow at the conclave. Modi's speech on "good governance" is being looked forward to by the council members. Chouhan, whom Modi's detractors are pushing forward as a counter to Modi, will speak on agricultural growth.
Top sources in the party, however, clarified that no decision on a national role for Modi and Chouhan - both of whom are likely to be made members of the BJP Parliamentary Board - will be taken at the conclave.
But an announcement to this effect may be made by Rajnath Singh later this month.
The party has clarified that a decision on who should be made the BJP prime ministerial candidate will be taken at an appropriate time by the Parliamentary Board. Some of the top party leaders as well as allies like JD(U) are opposed to Modi being the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP and the NDA.