At a time when there is intense debate inside and outside the BJP on the party’s prime ministerial candidate –with Narendra Modi as the frontrunner – party general secretary Varun Gandhi on Wednesday likened party chief Rajnath Singh to former Prime Minister and BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
“I see Vajpayee’s reflection in Rajnath Singh,” Gandhi said at a rally here, recalling that Vajpayee had brought him into politics. “Like Vajpayee, Rajnath Singh has shown that he can take all manners of Indians and all castes and communities along.”
Singh, who later played down Gandhi’s words of adulation saying none could compare with Vajpayee and Advani, has himself hailed Modi as the party’s most popular leader.
Even as Gandhi was seen as acknowledging Singh’s gesture in naming him the BJP’s youngest general secretary, the BJP chief also praised Gandhi when he spoke. “A big responsibility has been given to Varun Gandhi. He’ll travel throughout the country and put in hard work to strengthen the party,” Singh said amid applause. “It’s youth who should have the reins (bagdor) of the future.”
There was a sense that Gandhi’s crucial role in rebuilding the party in UP was recognised at the rally. There is buzz that the Pilibhit MP may be asked to contest from Sultanpur, close to the Nehru-Gandhi pocket borough in the state. There is another proposal to make him contest from one seat in western and one in eastern UP, but it is believed he also wants to campaign for other candidates rather than get tied down to his own seats.
Singh attacked SP, BSP and Congress, alleging that the two UP parties weren’t withdrawing support to the UPA for fear of the CBI, and challenged them to withdraw support. He also attacked the UPA over corruption and inflation.
Attacking government’s foreign policy on the beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops and Chinese incursions into India, Singh said a befitting reply should have been given. Asking the Prime Minister not to be “afraid”, he assured the BJP’s support for tough action.