The BJP’s race of aspiring (and perspiring) prime ministerial contenders is growing long—and wagging. On top of the pile, as always, is the “former future prime minister” himself, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani, who as the default “elder statesman” still fancies his chances should the NDA end up ahead of the UPA in the next general election.
Then there is Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi who, through his artfully constructed PR initiatives in the last few years, has left no one in any doubt that he will well and truly be in the great race in Delhi after he has wrapped his third election victory in his home-state (provided the long arm of the law doesn’t trip him in his ambitious path).
Through the boycott of Parliament over “Coalgate” and through his magisterial demeanour on TV, the Rajya Sabha leader Arun Jaitley has conveyed that he is quietly climbing up the greasy pole, and that there might be very helpful people to lend him support from below like Bihar chief minister and NDA partner, Nitish Kumar.
Nitish Kumar himself has delivered many thinly disguised messages in the past few months, but two statements stand out: the NDA’s next leader has to be “secular” (which means you-know-who is out) and that he himself is not in the race because he believes the biggest party in the NDA should get the shot (which means you-know-who is whom he wants).
To this list, a new name has been entered by another NDA partner, Shiv Sena “supremo” Bal Thackeray:
“At least today, there is only one intelligent and brilliant person. And that is Sushma Swaraj. She will be a superb choice for the prime minister’s post. She is deserving, (and) an intelligent lady. She will work very well.”
On top of which, there is the BJP president Nitin Gadkari, not to forget Rajnath Singh.
So, who amongst the lot might be best suited to head the NDA should an opening arise? Who amongst the lot might have national resonance? Or, as the Congress alleges, is the NDA counting its chickens before they are hatched?