Terming Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as key states to help BJP win the 2014 elections, senior leader Ananth Kumar has said Narendra Modi was as popular in this southern state as in Gujarat.
Kumar dismissed as "kite-flying" the reports about a survey by RSS mouthpiece 'Organiser' finding Rahul Gandhi to be more popular than Modi in south India (which has 132 Lok Sabha seats), saying that the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate was "popular across the country from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, and from Kutch to Kohima".
As per the survey, published in a recent issue of the weekly, Modi is the top choice of voters for the Prime Minister's post except in south India where Gandhi enjoys an edge. "I don't know anything about such surveys and I don't think that RSS conducts any such surveys. All I can say is that Modi is popular across the country... and the psyche of India is uniform on this front and this view is not fractured," the BJP leader told PTI in an interview.
The 54-year-old Kumar, who has a record of winning Bangalore South constituency for five straight times, is pitted against Congress candidate and technocrat Nandan Nilekani in the upcoming polls scheduled for April 17. The party General Secretary also asserted that Karnataka has been BJP's gateway to the south and would once again emerge as a multi-bagger state for BJP. "You cannot have different levels of popularity for the same person in a pan-India situation and I can say that Modi is as popular in Karnataka as he is in Gujarat or any other part of the country. In fact, if there are three states which are going to pilot the change at the Centre, they are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka," said Kumar, who is also member of BJP's Parliamentary Board.
In the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, Kumar got nearly 4.38 lakh votes, defeating Congress' Krishna Byre Gowda by a margin of over 37,000 votes.
Apart from Kumar and Nilekani, more than 20 other candidates are in the fray from this constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. These include Aam Aadmi Party's Nina Nayak, Ruth Manorama from Janta Dal (Secular) and 12 independents, among others.
On whether he would ensure a big role for Karnataka in ensuring BJP's victory in Lok Sabha elections, Kumar said, "In 1991, we had only four MPs, then we increased it to six, then to 16 MPs, in 2004 we got 18 MPs and in 2009 we got 19 MPs and with the current wave we would certainly get 20-plus MPs from Karnataka this time."
Asked whether BJP could consider any change in its Prime Ministerial candidate if it does not get the required number on its own and if new allies do not agree to Modi's name, Kumar said, "Mood of the country is today such that the people are going to give a clear mandate and an absolute majority to BJP. "NDA will win these elections under Modi's leadership.
Modi is our declared Prime Ministerial candidate and it is under his leadership and because of this declaration that we are going to get that number and get the majority." When asked whether Bangalore being an IT hub would benefit Infosys' co-founder and former CEO Nilekani, Kumar said, "Bangalore being a city of IT crowd and young people makes its residents even more well-informed and more enlightened. Therefore, they also know very well what Nilekani is trying to do. "People are seeing through his game and therefore we feel that the entire IT crowd and the entire youth crowd want a change at the Centre and they want Congress party to go. They want Manmohan Singh to go and they do not want Rahul Gandhi, they want an able and capable Prime Minister and they see an able and capable Prime Minister in Modi," he added.