India's Modi sidelines veterans in tussle over election candidates

NEW DELHI Mon Mar 24, 2014 11:07am EDT

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Gujarat's chief minister, gestures as he addresses a gathering during the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) national convention in New Delhi February 27, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Gujarat's chief minister, gestures as he addresses a gathering during the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) national convention in New Delhi February 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's Hindu nationalist opposition party saw internal spats deepen on Monday over the choice of candidates for next month's election, highlighting one of the hurdles its leader Narendra Modi faces in his attempt to become prime minister.

Modi needs all the support he can get from fellow members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to secure the top job. The party is forecast to win the largest single chunk of seats in the election, but will likely rely on striking deals with coalition partners to form a majority.

Modi's rise in the BJP and personal magnetism has grated with some of the party's old guard, who say he is replacing the party's tradition of internal democracy with one-person rule. Critics outside the party often accuse the three-times chief minister of the state of Gujarat of autocratic tendencies.

Indian stock markets have rallied in recent months, partly on hopes that Modi will become prime minister, given his promises to be a business-friendly leader who will get the country out of its economic downturn.

However, Jaswant Singh, a senior BJP leader and former finance minister, quit the party on Monday after he was denied a seat to contest in the elections starting on April 7. BJP veteran L.K. Advani was last week convinced to run for a seat in Gujarat despite wanting to stand elsewhere.

"This NaMo NaMo drama, and the style of decision-making that is happening nowadays ... is full of arrogance," Singh told reporters on Monday, using the nickname for the BJP candidate that is favoured by his supporters.

"It will be destructive for the party."

The move to stop Singh being a candidate has drawn criticism from BJP leaders such as Sushma Swaraj, the party's leader in the lower house of parliament.

Modi has topped many large opinion polls this year as voters' most popular choice for prime minister in the world's largest democracy. However, the BJP is unlikely to emerge with a majority and Modi could well need support from its top brass during coalition negotiations.

The BJP and its allies are forecast to win around 210-230 seats in India's 543-seat parliament, according to the polls. The ruling Congress party faces an uphill struggle to be re-elected due to public anger over a string of corruption scandals and the economic slowdown.

"He is putting his own team in place and trying to marginalise senior leaders," said Neerja Chowdhury, a political analyst and former political editor of the Indian Express newspaper.

"For Modi to insist on having his way is politically surprising. At this stage, he should be trying to give signals that he is willing to be a team player."

Some BJP leaders denied Advani had been strong-armed into running in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, and said disputes over candidates were normal in the run-up to an election.

"This kind of development will always take place," BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told Reuters. "You can't judge the party and the whole election by these kinds of developments."

(Additional reporting by Malini Menon in NEW DELHI; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alison Williams)

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Comments (2)
hardquestions wrote:
I hope the mainstream media sees the wisdom in supporting business friendly national leaders across the globe. Economic cooperation, peace and harmony should be the goal for all who can affect change for the better. The economic cost of lost peace is $7.2 trillion/year. The world cannot afford any more wars and unrest.

Mar 24, 2014 6:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
shaileshmd wrote:
There is nothing WRONG in N.Modi controlling the seats allocated to the person of his choice. The old guard has ruined this country, and needs to be swept out of the political arena. It is same Jaswant Singh who has been accused of multiple indiscretions, corruption scandals, and self profiteering. Mr.Modi is not a saint, but the old guards like JS, Advani, Sushma and others are the once who have destroyed the country’s economy. Look how the UPA governance has caused perpetual disasters. Mr.Singh, an economist of world caliber was unable to bring the reforms together as a PM, and the old cronies took over the country. I just saw the film, ” Satyagraha”, the plot can not be more realistic that the movie!

Mar 26, 2014 1:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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