Congress leaders on Thursday conceded defeat in Gujarat, but said it was "not open skies" for Chief Minister Narendra Modi, nursing national ambitions. It began with Khurshid suggesting Modi isn't PM material, but BJP leaders were quick to suggest otherwise. Here's a round-up of the spat between Congress and BJP over Modi's caliber to lead the country in the event of a BJP win in 2014.
Modi doesn't have pan-India presence: Khurshid
"Why are you raising an election victory which I believe came with great difficulty for Mr. Modi to his having a pan- Indian presence. He doesn't have a pan- Indian presence. In fact, there is a lot of negativity that goes with him elsewhere in the country. Therefore, please don't raise him to that level," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told mediapersons outside the Parliament.
"We have our leadership and our leadership is there for you to see. And our leadership is in every village, in every part of this country. We win, we lose; but that's because we have a longitivity that nobody else has had and nobody else will have in the near future," he added.
"What about Himachal? Don't undermine or reduce the importance of Himachal. Straight win for Modi fine, happy. But we have made significant improvements and I think we need to analyse both our improvements and our disappointments, we will do so. But it's not open skies for him the selection makes it clear and must have had a scare. I think that he has a lot of analysis to do himself and we have to do for ourselves," he said.
" Perhaps not far enough, perhaps not fast enough in terms of results this time, but it will show that we are moving in the right direction. We can fortify the basic strategy and basic tactical approach that we have taken and that will in due course take us where we want to go," he said.
Congress has contained Modi: Chidambaram
"Congress is the winner. Congress has won according to the last results I saw the Himachal election. And in Gujarat too, in my view, the Congress is the winner. Congress has gained several seats and BJP is being contained the last numbers that I saw below 117. If the BJP does not cross 117 and the Congress has improved its tally, the Congress is the clear winner in Gujarat too," Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told mediapersons outside the Parliament here.
However the minister will have to rephrase himself, since he was basing his comments on leads, not confirmed results. After the counting, it turned out that the BJP had crossed 117 seats after all.
Exit polls gave Modi natural advantage: Sibal
Faced with a certain defeat in Gujarat, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal today said exit poll results and pre-poll predictions gave Chief Minister Narendra Modi a natural advantage in the assembly elections.
"I have been saying this, the nature of the media in our country is such that Modi has complete control of the media in a sense and support of the media," Sibal told reporters outside Parliament premises.
"The kind of exit polls results and pre-poll predictions gave him a natural advantage in this election," he said.
On Modi's winning streak in Gujarat, Sibal said the results were not as spectacular as the media had predicted.
"As far as Gujarat is concerned, this was supposed to be a runaway win for Modi. What happened was there was a 3D campaign and the result is only 2D. But the manner in which they said that they will win 150-140 seats in Gujarat, I feel that has not happened," he said.
Sibal said in Gujarat the people who were opposed to Modi remain opposed to him.
"But, this much is true, we should congratulate Modi for his win. He has managed to get 2D results through his 3D campaign," he said.
On Modi being projected as prime ministerial candidate, Sibal said, "BJP will decide. It is a multi-brand party. There are many contenders. They will decide which brand to take forward."
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said Modi was restricted to only one state whereas Rahul Gandhi had a pan-India appeal.
"Why threatened of Modi when the entire BJP leadership could not threaten us," Khurshid shot back when asked whether the Congress felt threatened by Modi.
BJP MP: Modi is best suitable candidate for PM
The drum beats rolled outside the BJP office in Ahmedabad as the trends came in and Modi prepared for a third straight term as chief minister, with speculation mounting over whether he would be the BJP's man for prime minister in 2014.
Modi's third successive victory in the Gujarat assembly polls is expected to pitch him for a more prominent role in the BJP, possibly as head of its campaign for the next general elections, while some party leaders even expressed their preference for him to be projected as the prime ministerial candidate.
Some party leaders said Modi should now be projected as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.
BJP MP Tarun Vijay said Modi "is the best suitable candidate" for the post of prime minister on the basis of his performance.
Another MP, Smriti Irani said that Modi would be her candidate for the country's top post on the strength of his governance in Gujarat.
Modi likely to lead 2014 polls campaign: BJP sources
BJP sources now say Modi would be given a prominent role to galvanise the party rank and file for the next Lok Sabha elections.
"He is likely to be appointed chief of the party's campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls," a party leader told IANS on the condition of anonymity. The appointment could take place in January next year.
Modi's victory has come at a crucial time for the BJP as it has to decide its next party chief over the coming few weeks. Nitin Gadkari, who has been party president since December 2009, has faced controversy over alleged financial wrongdoing by a company linked to him and there have been suggestions from some party leaders against giving him a second term.
'Modi's views taken very seriously in BJP'
The BJP had kept a final decision on its next president pending in anticipation of results of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and is now expected to take a call on the issue.
With Modi having emerged as one of BJP's powerful leaders, his views are likely to matter on crucial issues facing the party.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said Modi was a very senior leader in the BJP and extremely popular with the party rank and file.
"His views matter... taken very seriously in BJP," Jaitley told a news channel.
Jayalalithaa congratulates Modi
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said in a statement that she had spoken to Modi over telephone and congratulated him for his "thumping victory".
Modi thanked Jayalalithaa for her good wishes, the statement said.
Asked whether 2014 Lok Sabha election will be fought between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said it will decide on its prime ministerial candidate after the Congress decision on it.
"Congress should first declare their leader under whose leadership they would fight '14 elections. After the Congress announcement of its leader, we will discuss the issue. For BJP, it is not an issue. When the elections will be announced, we will discuss the issue and decide accordingly," he told reporters outside Parliament.
Terming the BJP win in Gujarat elections as a "major victory", he said, "It is a victory for the BJP and Narendrabhai leadership. What is more is that the BJP is coming to power in Gujarat for the fifth term. Its a major achievement."
Asked about the Congress claim of gaining more seats in Gujarat, he said, "One seat less or two seats more is not a big issue. The issue is that we have retained the confidence of the people. We have established the leads in all the regions of the state. BJP has also improved its position in the so called minority areas."
assembly seats in Gujarat and a party needs at least 92 seats to get a majority and form the government.