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Rajnath Singh emerges as dark horse for PM.

New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may propose an alternative name for the prime ministerial candidate in case Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is unacceptable to allies.

The BJP is under immense pressure from within and some sister organisations to declare Modi's candidature for the top post in the country without further delay. The demand only grew further after some recent pre-poll surveys indicated that by projecting Modi as the prime ministerial candidate now, the BJP and its allies will reap the maximum benefit during next year's general elections.

While Modi's popularity beyond Gujarat, due to his track record of putting Gujarat on the fast track of development, goes in his favour, there are apprehensions about his acceptability amongst some partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), especially with parties like the Janata Dal (United), which thrives on Muslim votes.

"We will try to push for Modi's candidature, but would not risk disintegration of the NDA since such an eventuality would only help the ruling coalition," said a senior vice-president of the BJP.

The NDA, voted out of power in 2004 after ruling the country for six years, fancies its chances of replacing the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the 2014 general elections.

Among the NDA allies, only Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal has come out in open support of Modi, while Maharashtra-centric Shiv Sena says it would prefer the leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj as prime minister.

While the top two leaders of the Janata Dal (United), namely Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and its national president Sharad Yadav, have not spoken against Modi yet, the mood of the party is visible through its second-rung leadership.

"If it comes to that, we expect Modi to himself withdraw from the race in the interest of the party," said the BJP leader, adding that Modi may himself propose the name of newly elected party chief Rajnath Singh as the new prime minister.

The RSS, which is the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, is not in favour of Swaraj since unlike most of the BJP leaders she did not come through its ranks, it is not in favour of Swaraj's Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley as Jaitley is believed to have played a key role in denial of a second term to RSS nominee Nitin Gadkari as the BJP president last month.

Sources close to the Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav, however, indicated that the party may not oppose Modi if the BJP manages to win over 175 seats in the new Lok Sabha. The party currently has 115 lawmakers in the Lok Sabha, since it would then become easier for them to term it as Modi's acceptability amongst voters across the country.

Parties like Janata Dal (United) are opposed to Modi due to the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, though in late last year's state assembly elections, the BJP did exceptionally well in Muslim-dominated constituencies, giving hope to the BJP that Muslims in other states too will follow suit and withdraw their reservations against Modi.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Feb 6, 2013
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