Pressure from a restive cadre tired of leadership crisis, RSS’s ‘growing fondness’ for him and his performance in Gujarat have left senior BJP leaders little choice but to rally behind Narendra Modi.
Like the rank and file, many party seniors, too, feel that heading into the 2014 general elections, they will need the Gujarat chief minister to keep the warring factions together, say BJP insiders.
“As Modi is bound to play a big role and the RSS is certain to back his elevation to the Centre, no BJP leader wants to be seen opposing him,” said a party functionary.
A big win in Gujarat, which goes to the polls within 10 days, will pole vault Modi to the centre stage and way ahead of most party contemporaries, says another.
"The centre of gravity of the BJP is gradually shifting in favour of Modi," the BJP leader said. Even his worst critics within the party concede he is pro-active, decisive and can deliver on governance. The party functionaries spoke to HT on condition of anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to the media.
In praising Modi, Sushma Swaraj and other leaders have sought to move closer to the RSS, which sees a "bigger" role for Modi.
Until recently, driven by their ambitions and compulsion to keep Janata Dal(U) leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who threatened to walk out of NDA if Modi was given a larger role, in good humour, many senior BJP leaders were talking of keeping all options open on naming the PM candidate.
But it all may change next year as "the BJP leaders in the states want to arrest slide as well as the current leadership crisis", said a senior party leader.
But, no one is sure about his role. Will Modi be the PM candidate or chairman of a campaign panel?
Won't he drive the JD(U) out of the NDA? "That is a possibility but what is the future of alliances and the NDA without the party winning a large number of Lok Sabha seats," said a senior leader.
Veteran LK Advani, who is of the view that the party must project a PM candidate, may eventually accept the fact that the BJP and RSS are not enthusiastic about his candidature.
As for individual calculations, senior BJP leaders including Swaraj, who was the first leader to endorse Modi, believe that in the event of the BJP missing out on numbers after the polls, one of them can always emerge as a "compromise candidate" -- with the support of allies -- to become the PM.