Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Narendra Modi, backed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, BJP president K Jana Krishnamurthy and RSS bigwigs, is likely to be Gujarat's new chief minister.
"Modi is best suited for the job. There is a TINA [there is no alternative] factor working even amongst the alternatives!" a senior Gujarat minister quipped.
Over the last two days, at least 20 top BJP politicians and ministers from Gujarat have been summoned to New Delhi, ostensibly to seek their views on Patel's successor. Krishnamurthy and his predecessor, Shashikant 'Kushabhau' Thakre, met them.
One legislator, however, said the session "was more like a briefing why Modi will be good for Gujarat".
The MLA said the party's central leadership had only one concern: how to win the assembly election due in 18 months.
Interestingly, most of the ministers rediff.com spoke to were not comfortable with Modi, but agreed that there was no alternative.
Modi is believed to be a man of strong likes and dislikes. And some ministers are afraid of his 'arrogance'. They claim that over the last three years he has not even bothered to keep in touch with any of them. One senior minister remarked, "He never even smiled at us."
Gujarat's bureaucracy is also averse to Modi becoming chief minister, believing that his lack of administrative experience will be a weakness. But as a BJP politician put it, "When the Centre asked us for an alternative, we had no name."
Gujarat Industry Minister Suresh Mehta was one of the names in contention, but a confidant said Mehta "finds this seat too hot" in view of the problems facing the state.
Kashiram Rana and Vallabhbhai Kathiria, both willing candidates, lost out because neither has impressed the party leadership or cadres by their performance in Delhi. The official line, however, is that both are Lok Sabha members and the BJP cannot afford to lose any support in the House at this time.
Modi's supporters say he is being chosen because of his strong belief in Hindutva, his refined media skills and his ability to mobilise the cadres. He will rouse Sangh affiliates like the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. "We lost the recent by-elections because the Sangh Parivar was inactive," they argue.
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