New Delhi, Jan 22: Ruling out himself as his party's prime ministerial candidate, BJP president Nitin Gadkari on Sunday favoured Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for the top job and promised to back his candidature as party chief.
"I will never be a candidate for PM nor will I topple anybody. Modi has good potential to be BJP president and PM," Gadkari told a news channel.
Gadkari, whose term as BJP president comes to an end in December, said he is not interested in extension of his tenure. "I am ready to work as an ordinary party worker. I will support Narendra Modi to take over the mantle."
Dodging questions on who will be party's likely choice for the PM's post, Gadkari said, "BJP is not a proprietary party and we will decide PM's candidate at the appropriate time."
Asked whether BJP should now launch Narendra Modi on the national stage, Gadkari said, Narendra Modi has very good potential to be both BJP President and PM.
The BJP chief stoutly defended fielding Uma Bharti in UP's electoral battlefield and discounted dissensions within the party's state leadership over the import of the firebrand leader into the state.
"Uma Bharti is a national and respectable party leader and has been at the forefront of many projects in the state including the Ram Janambhhopmi movement. If Sonia Gandhi from Italy can contest polls in Amethi, what's the problem with Uma?," he asked.
Gadkari said he had declared at the very beginning that Bharti will lead the BJP's campaign in UP and claimed that she was fielded only after consulting leaders of the state.
When pointed out that Rajnath Singh had expressed reservations against Bharti on this channel about making an 'outsider' CM if the party came to power in the state, Gadkari said, "No one feels threatened by Uma."
Putting virtually on notice partymen for off-record briefing to the media, Gadkari asked for the names of such leaders. "Give me the names of leaders not happy with her (Uma's) induction into the state," he thundered.
He also strongly defended tainted and sacked UP Minister Babu Singh Kushwaha's induction into the party saying there was no FIR against the former BSP leader. The decision had not gone down well with senior party leaders like LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
But Gadkari said none of these leaders had officially protested against the decision. "The leaders should talk to me rather than the media if they have any disagreement."
"I own the decision to induct Kushwaha into the party," Gadkari said revealing that the decision was taken after consulting national and state party leaders. But he said the issue is closed for now as Kushwaha himself had asked to keep his membership on hold.
Gadkari ruled out any truck with BSP or SP in case the UP elections threw up a hung assembly. "My strength in politics is credibility. We don't want to have any direct or indirect alliance with BSP or SP."
The BJP president said his greatest challenge is to get over 200 seats for the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.