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National affairs on Modi’s menu

New Delhi, Jan. 27: Narendra Modi today said he held “detailed discussions” with BJP president Rajnath Singh on the 2014 general election, renewing focus on the party’s possible choice for the next Prime Minister.

The meeting, which took place over lunch at Rajnath’s residence, lasted more than two hours and was described as “fruitful” by the Gujarat chief minister in a tweet.

“Discussed how the BJP can serve the nation further,” he added, the word “nation” being seen as further confirmation that Modi no longer envisages himself as another regional leader. On the day Modi was re-elected for a third term, he had addressed his supporters in Ahmedabad in Hindi and smiled through the cries of “PM, PM” that rent the air.

This afternoon in Delhi, Rajnath and Modi made the most of their meeting, posing together for pictures and giving sound bites.

Asked by reporters about the meeting, Modi said: “I sought his (Rajnath’s) guidance for what more the BJP can do to serve the people of Gujarat and the people of India. We also held detailed discussions on the coming general election.”

Rajnath said: “We sat together for a couple of hours and discussed about Gujarat and the 2014 elections.”

BJP sources said the issues ranged from the crisis in the party in Karnataka that goes to polls in April-May, Jharkhand and a slew of state elections at the end of the year that will pit the BJP and the Congress in a direct fight. On 2014, they spoke of the prospect of the BJP replacing the Congress at the Centre, but in a coalition and not on its own, the sources added.

The sources claimed Rajnath stressed the importance of strengthening the NDA coalition and adding more allies. While few in the BJP challenge the perception that Modi would easily outrank his peers if a popularity contest was held, the tricky point was whether he was acceptable — not just to the existing allies but to prospective ones as well.

Time and again, the Janata Dal (United) had said if Modi was projected as the BJP’s face for Prime Minister, it would walk out of the NDA “in minutes”. However, it is learnt that barring a couple of BJP leaders supposedly eyeing the Prime Minister’s post, the rest have come round to the view that if it came to foregrounding Modi, the BJP should not be “swayed” by the Dal (United)’s threats.

The Modi-Rajnath session today was significant for another reason. During Rajnath’s first tenure as BJP president, he had thrown Modi out of the party’s parliamentary board. Current spin around the ejection holds that Modi was “too preoccupied” with Gujarat and could not attend the board meetings regularly but at that time, it was understood that Rajnath was dictated to by the RSS whose relations with Modi had plummeted to a new low.

Since then, Modi has repaired his relations with the RSS and Rajnath with Modi.

In the recent consultations held to replace Nitin Gadkari as the BJP chief, sources said Modi “readily” accepted Rajnath’s name and assured the RSS of co-operation with him.

After Modi left, Arun Jaitley, the Rajya Sabha Opposition leader, called on Rajnath.

Sources said Rajnath’s endeavour would be to “work in a spirit of co-operation and consensus”. He was also being pressured to put Modi in the front “without wasting time”.