Ahmedabad: After leading the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to yet another win in Gujarat Assembly elections, Narendra Modi, a development-oriented and clean leader for his supporters and a despicable politician for his opponents, is clearly eyeing a bigger role in national politics. Modi scored a hat-trick of electoral victories in the results declared on Thursday with the BJP winning 115 seats in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, which is just two short of the 2007 tally, thereby bolstering his chances of becoming a major player in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
In his victory speech delivered in Hindi at a rally in Ahmedabad for the benefit of a larger national audience, Modi dedicated his win to not only the six crore Gujaratis but also added that it was for all those who wanted good governance, development and a corruption-free administration. "Political pundits can discuss Modi all they want, but today's hero is the six-crore strong electorate of Gujarat," said Modi.
Stressing that his only aim was the betterment of the state in every sphere, Modi said that he is going to dedicate the next five years to the public of Gujarat.
Claiming that BJP's victory in Gujarat is a victory for all Indians, Modi said, "By serving Gujarat, I serve India. The results of the Gujarat elections have proved that the voters in the country know what is right and what is wrong. The voters in Gujarat don't want the situation they faced in the 80s."
Modi only smiled when his supporters chanted, "PM, PM," after he mentioned that he would be visiting New Delhi on December 27, a day after his swearing-in ceremony as Gujarat Chief Minister. Modi also asked his supporters to forgive him if he had made any mistake in the past, and said, "If I have made any mistakes, forgive me. Give me your blessings so I make no mistakes in the future." Calling his win a victory of all the Indians, Modi stated, "BJP's Gujarat victory is a victory for all Indians. People have voted keeping their future in mind."
Commenting on the Congress, Modi remarked, "Politics of divide and rule has been defeated. People have risen above regionalism and caste system, they are thinking about the generations to come." Modi called all the voters "heroes of my victory are my six crore Gujaratis" and said that it is this support that gives him the strength to "take right decisions".
During his lengthy speech, Modi took on his detractors and said, "This is a hat-trick. Why can't anti-Gujarat campaigners realise this fact." Seeking support in future, Modi said, "Bless me so that I don't commit any mistake in future. We are here because of those who struggled for the Bharatiya Janata Party."
Even by mistake, there should be no mistake in the future, he told his supporters in his 45-minute victory speech but gave no indications of his future political plans. "Neither will I stop, nor will I get tired as I have to fulfill your dreams", he said. While two BJP MPs Smriti Irani and Ram Jethmalani openly endorsed Modi as the next Prime Minister candidate but the party leaders steered clear of the issue. BJP Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said Modi has always been an important leader in the party. "We are not a dynastic party, which is led by a Yuavaraj. We function in a pure democratic fashion," he said.
His hat-trick of victories, which saw the BJP winning for the fifth consecutive time in Gujarat, has certainly made him one of the strongest leaders in the party and propelled him as a strong contender in the Prime Ministerial race in 2014. With the BJP in a state of disarray on the national stage, a strong Modi could be the glue to hold the party together in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections even though some allies of his party have openly expressed their displeasure against anointing him as the prime ministerial candidate due to his alleged role in the 2002 post-Godhra violence in which over 1,000 people were killed in Gujarat.
The 62-year-old Modi's opponents have not only charged him with being anti-minority, but also claimed that his development agenda is actually a mask for his pro-Hindutva ideology. They also point out that he has never made any attempt to apologise or express regret over 2002 carnage in the state.
Even within the BJP there was no clear indication if the party wanted Modi to play a national role. While BJP leader Smriti Irani, speaking to CNN-IBN, said that given a choice, she would vote for Modi as the Prime Minister candidate, BJP spokesperson Tarun Vijay went on to equate Modi with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, calling him the most suitable candidate for the Prime Minister's job.
"Narendra Modi has proved himself in Gujarat through development mantra. What Vajpayee did in Centre, Modi got through his development in Gujarat. Modi is the best suitable candidate for Prime Ministership," said Tarun Vijay.
However, other senior leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad and Rajiv Pratap Rudy said that the decision would be taken at an appropriate time, asserting that the decision on the issue should be left with the party. Key NDA constituent, the JD(U), while congratulating Modi on the win, maintained that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was a better prime ministerial candidate.
While the results were a shot in the arm for Modi, they came as an equally big setback for the Congress party, which was expecting to ride on anti-incumbency wave and score a win, or at least better its prospects in comparison to the previous elections. However, the party failed to put up a fight, winning just two more seats than 2007 and ended at 61.
Another Modi rival and former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel, who had launched his Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) to dent the prospects of the Gujarat Chief Minister, did not succeed in making any mark, as his party merely managed to just open its account.
The Modi charisma was visible throughout the state as the BJP won handsomely in all the regions and also won a majority of the Muslim-dominated constituencies, silencing his critics who have targeted and alleged that his policies are not pro-minority community. In fact the BJP won eight of the 12 Muslim dominated seats while the party's performance in the urban constituencies was even more impressive as the BJP went on to decimate the Congress as well as the GPP.
Even though Modi had given tickets to most of the sitting MLAs, which was being seen as a move by him to curb rebellion, the BJP's excellent show revealed that the Gujarat Chief Minister had played his cards well.