| Keshubhai, Modi, Naidu, Advani and Rajnath at the BJP workers’ meeting in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. (PTI)
Ahmedabad, Oct. 8: BJP big guns L.K. Advani and Venkaiah Naidu today splashed cold water on Keshubhai Patel’s aspirations for chief minister, making it clear that the hot seat “belonged” to Narendra Modi.
Speaking at the state-level workers’ convention, the deputy Prime Minister endorsed party chief Naidu’s statement that the BJP would sweep the Assembly elections and that “Modi will remain the chief minister”.
The statement comes as a huge public snub to the former chief minister — on the dais with a galaxy of BJP central leaders — who had recently voiced reservations about Modi’s attempts to project himself as future chief minister. “The chief minister is elected by MLAs. So the MLAs, not Modi, will decide who should be the chief minister,” he had said.
South Gujarat’s strongman Kashiram Rana had echoed Keshubhai. Both are aspirants for the hot seat, which, Advani today said, “belongs to Modi”.
Exuding confidence about the BJP’s poll prospects, he said retaining power in Gandhinagar was not the party’s ultimate objective. “We should be able to provide a model government, to give Gujarat its rightful place and take India into the league of developed nations,” Rana said.
Strongly defending Modi’s Gaurav Yatra — undertaken to restore the state’s pride after the February riots — Advani said no one should get carried away by its success.
Underlining the importance of the Gujarat polls as it would affect the BJP’s prospects in the 2004 general elections, Advani said: “Our target is to win 300 Lok Sabha seats. But even after getting a clear majority, we would like to abide by the coalition dharma. We would like the NDA alliance to remain in place, to ensure that all regions are adequately represented.”
On a day’s visit to Ahmedabad, Advani expressed pride in Modi continuing as chief minister “even six months after the dissolution of the Assembly”. He slammed Modi’s detractors for demanding imposition of President’s rule.
Hitting out at pseudo-secularists for criticising Modi and maligning Gujarat, he said no efforts had been made to control the 1984 riots in Delhi but effective measures had been taken after the Godhra flare-up. Advani contended that India was secular because it was a Hindu-majority state. “While Pakistan declared itself a theocratic state after Partition, the Constituent Assembly of India did not do so as it was in keeping with our cultural traditions,” he said.
Till 1997, the BJP attracted people by its ideology but after coming to power “we have added new dimensions --- coalition dharma and development”, he said.
BJP president Naidu echoed Advani on the Gujarat polls setting the tone for 2004. “The Assembly polls are very very crucial to us since the entire world will be watching us,” he said.
Naidu, too, voiced confidence that the BJP would come up trumps, but asked partymen not to become cocksure. Party workers should not go to Gandhinagar or but to villages to meet people, he said.
The convention adopted a resolution reiterating faith in Modi’s leadership. It termed Modi “the best chief minister” who had proved his competence to the world by successfully handling situations from Godhra to Akshardham.