US report pits Modi vs Rahul in 2014; BJP, Congress don’t say much


Washington,/New Delhi: A new US Congressional report has suggested that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi could be the opposition BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2014 elections to take on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The report takes note of Modi’s “impressive development successes in his state” and also of “heir-apparent” Rahul’s “reputation for gaffes”.

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While the BJP said it has not taken any decision on its prime ministerial nominee, the Congress party refused to comment on Rahul’s candidature.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, providing background information to US lawmakers, does not directly suggest a contest between the two leaders, but does discuss the possibility of Modi and Gandhi emerging as the candidates of their respective parties.

Taking note of Modi’s “impressive development successes in his state”, the as-yet unpublished report made public by the Federation of American Scientists think-tank, says that while BJP president Nitin Gadkari has made changes in the party “to be a formidable challenger” yet “among the party’s likely candidates for the prime ministership in future elections is” Modi.

In New Delhi, the BJP said it has not decided on its prime ministerial candidate as yet.

Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters: “Who becomes the prime ministerial candidate, or the party will project as a prime ministerial candidate, all these things will be known as and when the time comes.”

From the Congress party, spokesperson Manish Tewari declined to comment on the report or Rahul’s candidature.

“I have not perused any such report. Even if such report was ostensibly to exist, I don’t think it is necessary to dignify it with a response,” Tewari said.

He said India had several think tanks of international repute which come out with reports. “I do not think it is essential for political party to comment on every report supposed to have been published,” he said.

Tewari said if Modi and his supporters were “taking pleasure in tomtomming the report, it was the same US which still does not give him visa to step on their land.”

The report said that “Modi, who has overseen impressive development successes in his state, is also dogged by controversy over his alleged complicity in lethal anti-Muslim rioting there in 2002.”

Modi, it notes has in the past been denied a US visa under an American law barring entry for foreign government officials found to be complicit in severe violations of religious freedom and cites Indian media reports to say that “although he is a safe bet to win a third term in 2012 state elections, his aspirations to be the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate face significant obstacles”.

Discussing the prospects of Rahul Gandhi, the Sep 1 report notes that Congress president Sonia Gandhi “is suffering from an unknown illness, and in early August virtually disappeared from India’s political stage”.

“Moreover, as key Congress figures express support for the future leadership role of Sonia Gandhi’s youthful son, parliamentarian Rahul Gandhi, (Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh’s political authority is correspondingly undermined,” it says.

“The 2009 polls may have represented a coming out party of sorts for the younger Gandhi, who many expect to be put forward as Congress’s prime ministerial candidate in scheduled 2014 elections.

“Yet this heir-apparent remains dogged by questions about his abilities to lead the party, given a mixed record as an election strategist, uneasy style in public appearances, and reputation for gaffes,” the report added.

On the report praising Modi’s governance, Sitharaman said “it is no surprise”.

The report has also praised Bihar, ruled by the Janata Dal-United and BJP coalition, as another good example of effective governance.

The BJP called it as another proof of the good work the party was doing in states under its rule and with allies.

Modi said it was a recognition for Gujaratis.

“Another recognition for six crore Gujaratis. US report hails Guj(arat)’s effective governance. Jay Jay Garvi Guj(arat),” Modi tweeted.