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Vikas Pathak, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 21, 2012
All eyes are on the BJP's leadership dilemma after Narendra Modi's third straight win in Gujarat.
The party has said it would decide its prime ministerial candidate later, and many feel going into the next Lok Sabha polls with a joint leadership would work better in a context of conflicting ambitions among the party's top leaders.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said as much when the question was posed to him as Gujarat results tricked in.

While terming Modi's victory as emphatic, Jaitley said: "This may be an interesting topic from the media's point of view but we will take a decision at the appropriate time."

However, there have been stray voices naming their favourite candidates already. And even allies have stepped in. While Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) has made his dislike for Modi clear, late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray named Sushma Swaraj as his choice not long before his death.

"If there was a vote for the PM's post, my vote would go to Modi," the party's women's wing chief Smriti Irani said on Thursday. The party's Punjab prabhari Balbir Punj and suspended party leader Ram Jethmalani have also made no bones about backing Modi.

But the party wants to cross the bridge when it comes to it. For, the high-profile Gujarat CM has one serious shortcoming: his image as a Hindutva hardliner since Gujarat riots is not conducive to the NDA’s expansion in the country.    

But some leaders are suggesting Modi may soon be involved at the national level.

"He could be made to lead the party's election campaign committee for the next polls, and tour the country to campaign for the party," a central BJP leader told HT.

One leader suggested another possible role for Modi: bringing him into the party's parliamentary board by including chief ministers in it.

Despite a troubled relation with sections of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Gujarat, Modi is believed to have mended fences with the  Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

His recent meeting with the Sangh chief set things in order, despite the fact that he had been recently criticized by Sangh ideologue MG Vaidya, leading to the RSS retracting from the statement. The Sangh is known to dislike personality cult, but senses the electoral potential of Modi.