A new axis between Narendra Modi and BJP president Rajnath Singh — since Gujarat CM’s elevation to the party’s parliamentary board — has more to do with battle plans for the Lok Sabha polls than with jostling for the choice of prime minister’s candidate.
That’s the view of Singh after his interactions with Modi since January. “No matter what others think, I can tell you that, not once, has Modi said anything about the PM’s race or he wants to be the candidate. Like others, Modi has left it to the party. I say this with complete honesty,” Singh told HT in what is seen as his first response to the rumours that Modi is pushing for his candidature with the help of the BJP chief.
“That is not true. None of our discussions have centred on this subject. In all the interactions we have had, including the one on May 21, we talked about only putting the BJP back into fighting gear and how we must enthuse cadres and ensure the Congress is defeated,” he said.
Singh said it was unfair to read too much meaning about Modi’s plans or his role when as a popular face he was only concerned about the BJP’s readiness for the elections.
Singh said his task was to involve all leaders — whether it was LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitely, or Modi — in enabling the BJP win the polls. “Everyone will be involved and provide the thrust for the party. I need Gadkari and Venkaiah Naidu to guide us too.”
Singh said his choice of Modi’s confidant, Amit Shah, to handle UP for the Lok Sabha polls was also guided by the need for an “experienced hand” to manage the challenging state and “not to please or displease anyone.”
“Shah brings his rich winning experience from Gujarat, which will inspire our workers in UP. We needed somebody who can bring fresh ideas to resurrect the BJP,” said Singh. Singh, who is a former UP chief minister, did not mince words in saying his highest expectation in terms of Lok Sabha tally was from UP. “We are looking at a scenario where we can win 35-40 of the 80 seats.”