Brand Modi takes a beating amid BJP internal conflicts
New Delhi: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi might be eyeing the big seat with his three-day sadbhavna (goodwill) fast that ended Monday, but there are few takers for the view that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader might be a contender for the prime minister's post in 2014.
The BJP is helping build "brand Modi", but internal conflicts within the party send another message entirely about the leader, held responsible for the 2002 riots that killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in his state.
The sectarian violence and its aftermath still cast a dark shadow, making Modi unacceptable to many across the political spectrum despite his image as an able administrator.
"BJP sees an opportunity in Modi. They are trying to build ‘brand Modi', which depicts development, anti-corruption, and progress... However, the biggest challenge for Modi is to be able to deal with the 2002 riots, which are actually a blot on the nation's secular fabric," said Sandeep Shastri, pro vice-chancellor, Jain University, and director, International Academy for Creative Teaching at Bengaluru.
The BJP, while making a clear attempt to cash in on his popularity, neither confirms nor denies the possibility of drafting Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. The buzz had intensified after the US Congressional Research Service had said in a report that he could be in the reckoning for the post.
"The sadbhavna mission is not an exercise to project Modi as a prime ministerial candidate," party leader Balbir Punj told IANS.
"All the same, he is definitely proven prime minister material."
A highly placed source from the party said it was difficult to project Modi as the prime ministerial candidate as there were several other senior leaders averse to the idea. "While it is true that Modi is popular with certain sections, and has large backing from the corporate class, it is difficult for him to be prime minister," the source said.
Top guns in attendance
Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha (lower house), was to be among the top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders scheduled to be present on the third and final day of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's fast Monday.
Modi has been fasting since Saturday on a goodwill mission, seeking peace and social harmony.
Maharastra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray greeted Modi at the fast venue earlier in the day. Small groups of victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots held protests in the city yesterday. The action follows the detention of several activists and protesters the previous day.