BJP president Nitin Gadkari wants all prospective prime ministerial candidates from the party to contest the Lok Sabha polls next time.
“All prospective candidates for the PM’s post will contest Lok Sabha polls next time, and they will all win,” Gadkari told reporters in Nagpur.
However, Gadkari refused to be drawn into who would eventually be the PM candidate, repeating the party’s line that the BJP has a galaxy of capable leaders and is not a dynastic party where everyone knows who the future leader will be. The party, he said, would decide its candidate collectively later.
The names of LK Advani, Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Gadkari himself are already doing the rounds as possible names for the top post, but the BJP has reserved its call. While Advani and Swaraj are at present in the Lok Sabha, Gadkari and Jaitley, who is leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, are not. Modi, too, is Gujarat CM and has not moved out of the state yet.
Highly placed sources say the party has already begun to figure out the seats its top leaders would contest from, and Gadkari is zeroing in on Nagpur.
A source close to Gadkari said that though Nagpur has a powerful population of Muslims and Dalits — who are not traditional BJP voters — his surveyors have estimated that he would get half the Muslim and Dalit vote if he contests from there. The other possible seat is Wardha.
This means that if things go as Gadkari wants, the party’s top leaders, including Gadkari, will have to win their Lok Sabha polls or risk losing face. It also means that the party is likely to have a clutch of powerful names in the Lok Sabha next time, and that the Rajya Sabha may lose some of its sheen.
In the last Lok Sabha, the party had few powerful speakers, with Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi and Rajnath Singh all being in the Rajya Sabha.