According to Sushma, Modi is fit to be the next PM. Interacting with newspersons here yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha said: "As far as the Prime Minister's post is concerned, there is no queue but there are no two views about it that Narendra Modi is a competent candidate for the post."
At election rallies too, Sushma hailed the Gujarat CM's "good work" in the state and expressed confidence that he will lead the BJP to a third consecutive victory in the coming Assembly polls. The Congress will be routed in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, she averred.
Sushma's endorsement of Modi's candidature is particularly significant because veteran BJP leader LK Advani was accompanying her as she sought votes for the party's candidates in Gujarat.
Advani served as deputy prime minister under Atal Behari Vajpayee from 2002 to 2004 and though he is not seen as the party's likely choice for the top post, political observers believe that he has an outside chance to emerge as a consenus candidate mainly because some of the BJP's allies are opposed to Modi occupying the PM's chair.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has raised the strongest objection and warned of pulling the Janata Dal (United) out of the NDA if his Gujarat counterpart is projected as the BJP's face in 2014.
Kumar has stressed that the coalition must opt for a secular candidate, otherwise the minorities will not exercise their franchise in favour of the NDA. By raising this point, the Bihar CM is obviously trying to ensure that Modi's name is not seriously considered for the PM's post.
It remains to be seen whether the former's gambit will succeed and scuttle the latter's hopes. With opinion polls indicating that BJP will sweep Gujarat once again, few will bet against Modi's continued success even if he shifts to the national stage.