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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Why is Narendra Modi praising Pranab Mukherjee?

Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 05, 2014
First Published: 21:30 IST(5/2/2014) | Last Updated: 21:54 IST(5/2/2014)

Narendra Modi's praise of President Pranab Mukherjee yet again at his Kolkata rally may cause everyone to think of the "obvious" reason: it perhaps has to do with the President's critical role in deciding who forms the next government if the elections throw up a hung Parliament.

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But beyond the "obvious" reason, say Modi's strategists, lies a more political reason. It has more to do with BJP’s plans to reverse bleak record in 42 seats from the state.

Besides being the tallest leader from the state, the "denial" of his "political due" by the Congress has always been a matter of intense debate.  By recalling "injustice" done to Mukherjee, Modi hopes the voters' "aversion" for the Congress could be turned to meet the BJP's hopes in  Bengal, which has remained a difficult ground to break though the party's former avatar Jan Sangh was co-founded by the son of the soil, Syama Prasad Mookerjee.
 
Also, say his aides, Modi's praise of Mukherjee has a lot more to do with what he thinks about the "silent churning" within the Congress since the rise of Rahul Gandhi and the "disquiet and disbelief" among the senior leaders over his style.

READ: Congress did not allow Pranab to become prime minister, says Narendra Modi at Kolkata rally
 
Modi believes the internal goings-on in the Congress will come to the surface as the elections get nearer and the Congress vice-president goes about further "re-engineering" his party, particularly in the choice of candidates.
 
The senior Congress leaders are then likely to feel more "exasperated" by the younger leadership and some may be tempted even to speak out, according to BJP insiders.
 
By repeatedly pointing out the "plight" of senior Congress leaders, Modi hoped to show that the party was under the dynastic rule, no matter what Rahul said about "opening" it for others to make it to the top by a new selection process, his strategists said.
 
But, the BJP PM nominee is certainly not so "politically naive" to assume that the President would be swayed by praise  to "help" any political formation when he is known as a stickler for constitutionalism and adhering to the precedents set by his predecessors, they said.
 
Modi praised Mukherjee for the first time when he addressed the BJP national council here in March last year.
 
As he was felicitated for his hat-trick win in Gujarat in December 2012, Modi sought to point out that while he could rise from the ranks in BJP, the Gandhi dynasty ruled the roost at the cost of other seniors.

READ:  Modi slams Left parties, stops short of criticising Mamata

In 2012, Modi was among the first leaders to congratulate Mukherjee when he became the UPA's candidate for the presidential elections. Modi was not too happy that the NDA chose to oppose him.
 
In October last year, Mukherjee obliged BJP leaders by cutting short by a day his two-day Bihar visit, which would have clashed with  Modi’s ‘Hunkar Rally’ slated for October 27.  Senior BJP leaders Shahnawaz Hussain and Rajiv Pratap Rudy had met the President to request him to revise the schedule of his visit.

Mukherjee's call in his Republic Day address this year, asking voters to pitch for a stable government, was welcomed by the BJP leaders who agreed with his view that populist anarchy cannot be a substitute for governance and false promises lead to disillusionment.

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