With hype being created on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as BJP’s next prime ministerial candidate, the party president Rajnath Singh remained non-committal on the issue even though he hailed Modi as the “most popular leader in the nation”.
Singh also defended Modi for his role in 2002 Gujarat riots and said BJP was a secular party and Modi was chief minister of this very secular party.
"To say that Modi had engineered the riots or took the side of of one community cannot be expected from any chief minister. Nobody can ever do this. If it is said that the communal riots there happened with Modi's consent, then does it mean the riots that took place under CPI-M, Congress and SP rules also happened with their consent?" he asked.
Singh also justified Modi not apologising for the Gujarat riots like Congress President Sonia Gandhi did over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, saying Modi has "no reason to express regret" and that he has already said it many times that the communal riots in Gujarat were unfortunate.
He maintained that the final authority to take the decision regarding the party's Prime Ministerial candidate remains with the BJP Parliamentary Board. “The board that will decide what parameters it adopts to decide about the PM candidate,” Singh told Karan Thapar during his programme Devil’s Advocate.
Singh, however, evaded questions on whether he was suggesting Modi as a prime ministerial candidate. “I accept this that if there is someone, who is the most popular leader in the nation, it is Narendra Modi...whether it is the BJP cadre or common people, Modi is a very popular leader among them. Nobody can deny this,” he said, while replying to query that if he is most popular than why Modi is not being projected as PM candidate.
The BJP leader was also hopeful that its allies would not ditch NDA over its Prime Minister decision if it comes to power. "I am sure that the alliance which we have with other parties will not break at all," Rajnath said.
The newly appointed BJP president also expressed doubts whether the Congress would declare Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate. "Congress has not declared its PM candidate. How do you say Rahul Gandhi is the PM candidate of Congress?”