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BJP guessing game on next Modi move

New Delhi, Dec. 18: Exit poll predictions about Narendra Modi’s return as Gujarat chief minister for a third term have prompted the BJP leadership to wonder if he will move to Delhi to assume a “larger” national role or wait before making the talked-about shift.

Those who claim to know Modi “very well” said he was hardly a Hamlet-like persona who agonised over existential dilemmas. If an opportunity comes his way, he isn’t one to look over his shoulder to watch how peers react to his moves, the leaders said.

When the RSS anointed Nitin Gadkari to helm the party and told the “Delhi cabal” of Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and others that they did not feature conspicuously on its radar, Modi grasped the underlying message. It was that RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat viewed the BJP’s regional leaders as being equally weighty, in the sweepstakes for the Prime Minister’s job if the party won the 2014 general elections.

But Modi might find the leap from Gandhinagar to Delhi tougher than his move south west from Delhi to Gujarat’s capital in 2001 when he was crowned chief minister.

Sources said the RSS and the central BJP leadership remained his biggest roadblocks.

The RSS has not spoken its mind so far. “It is typical of the Sangh to watch how the BJP’s internal equations unfold before flashing a signal. However, the chances are it might not be averse towards Modi’s national projection,” a source said.

In the BJP’s top echelons, Modi counts Jaitley as a friend and, lately, Rajnath Singh as a “well-wisher”. As BJP chief, Rajnath tried to put him in his place. But lately, they have repaired relations. Modi made it a point to invite Rajnath to flag off his pre-election Vivekananda Yuva Vikas Yatra along with Jaitley.

BJP sources stressed that neither Rajnath nor Jaitley would make a pitch for Modi without the RSS’s nod.

The BJP road map suggests that if re-elected, Modi will get down to his “unfinished” agenda in Gujarat, whose first high point will be the “Vibrant Gujarat” investment summit next month. The next task will be to enlarge his diplomatic clout to get the EU countries on his side before working on the US to legitimise his standing.

In the party, he might be enlisted in the top policy and decision-making panels like the central election committee and the parliamentary board to give him a greater say in national affairs. Sources quashed the buzz of his becoming BJP chief, saying the “indications” were that Gadkari would get a second term by January.

The most concrete pointer towards a national role for Modi will come if he is asked to, or himself volunteers, to campaign in a forthcoming election.

The blueprint drawn up by Delhi, however, does not fit into the expectations of cadres — Modi’s greatest strength. “We want him as the prime ministerial candidate,” said a legislator from Uttar Pradesh.