After victory, Modi says he is not bigger than BJP

By Ashish Mehta, IANS

Gandhinagar : A day after scripting a spectacular electoral victory, an emotional Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi declared Monday that he was not bigger than his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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Even as the Gujarati and even the national media gave full credit to the 57-year-old over the way the BJP crushed the Congress in assembly elections, he told the newly elected legislators: “A son cannot be bigger than his mother.”

“I am not bigger than the organisation. Those who say I am bigger than the party do not know our struggle,” Modi said in a voice choking with emotion and with tears in his eyes.

He was addressing the BJP legislature wing that elected him its leader, paving the way for him to become chief minister of Gujarat for a third time.

On Christmas Day, which also happens to be BJP star and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday, Modi will be sworn in at 12.39 p.m., considered an auspicious time in the Hindu calendar.

Modi, who first became chief minister Oct 6, 2001, stunned friends and foes alike by captaining the party to a landslide victory in December 2002, winning 127 of the 182 seats at the height of a serious communal divide.

In this month’s elections, the party beat the anti-incumbency and several other factors to win 117 seats. The Congress won just 59 seats – only eight more than what it got five years earlier.

On Monday, Modi blamed a section of the media for portraying him as taller than all other BJP leaders including prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani.

Addressing the legislators, Arun Jaitley, the BJP leader who crafted the Gujarat poll strategy along with Modi, congratulated the party organisation for creating history.

“The Congress has never gained majority here since 1985. The BJP has won since 1990 (when it supported a Janata Dal government). You have created history under Modi’s dynamic leadership,” he said.

Earlier, Modi along with state BJP president Purshottam Rupala and Gujarat in-charge Om Prakash Mathur met Governor Naval Kishore Sharma and submitted his resignation.

The governor asked him to continue as caretaker chief minister until a new government is formed.

Later in the day, Rupala and Ashok Bhatt, the most senior member in the outgoing cabinet, met the governor and staked claim to form the next government.

Stunned by the humiliating defeat, the Gujarat Congress admitted to committing mistakes rather than playing a blame game.

“I take full responsibility for the defeat,” Bharatsinh Solanki, the state unit president who was in charge of the election campaign, told IANS. “We have not been able to connect with the electorate effectively.”

Asked if there was any rural-urban divide in the voting pattern, he confessed: “No, we have lost across Gujarat.”

Solanki, who could have been a chief ministerial candidate if his party had won, said the election results would be analysed over the week.

Arjun Modhvadia, leader of the opposition in the outgoing assembly, added: “The defeat is due to organisational weakness. We will now have to work on it. We will have to address this issue not for once but continuously.”

Gujarati newspapers, many of which were highly critical of Modi before the polls, hailed him Monday as a leader of national status.

Many papers carried large photographs of BJP state president garlanding Modi on his arrival at the state party office Sunday afternoon and offering sweets to him. Some focussed on the large crowd outside the BJP office celebrating victory.

In its main editorial comment, Divya Bhaskar said under the headline “Victory for Moditva”: “With full faith, the people of Gujarat have made Narendra Modi the chief of Gujarat (‘Gujarat-no nath’) once again. In an assembly election that had become like a suspense thriller, voters have chosen Moditva.”

Highlighting all the odds against Modi, it concluded by saying: “The 2007 victory belongs to Modi alone. Till now, it was Modi who was projecting himself as larger than life, but now he has truly emerged as larger than life.”