New Delhi: Amid speculation that BJP leader LK Advani is undertaking his yatra to be in the fray for the next Lok Sabha polls, the senior leader on Friday endorsed a US Congressional report that says Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi may be the next Prime Ministerial candidate of the party.

"Now, American lawmakers and the State Department are being primed for the return of the BJP to power in New Delhi, with Modi at the helm as Prime Minister, following what US analysts say is a 'precipitous' decline in the Congress party's fortunes due to a string of corruption scandals," Advani wrote on his blog on Friday.

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The senior BJP leader was quoting from the recent report of the US Congressional Research Service, an independent research wing of the US Congress.

Though Advani did not state categorically whether Modi will be BJP's PM candidate in the general elections slated for 2014, he agreed with the claims of the report which praises Modi's performance as Gujarat Chief Minister.

"Although still in some disorder in 2011, there are signs that the BJP has made changes necessary to be a formidable challenger in scheduled 2014 polls. These include a more effective branding of the party as one focused on development and good governance rather than emotive, Hindutva-related issues," Advani said, quoting the report.

Modi, who has been accused of not taking appropriate action to control the 2002 Gujarat riots, has since then tried to project himself as a Chief Minister committed to development and good governance.

Advani also stated that in July 2009 he had taken up with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the issue of Modi's visa denial in 2005, and told her that the Chief Minister had not even applied for the same.

"I haven't been able to understand how and why your government has announced that Narendra Modi has been refused a visa, when Modi has not even applied for one?" Advani had asked Clinton.

A surprised Clinton had then asked her officials whether this was true, he said.

Advani wrote on his blog that one of the officials told Clinton this was true, and added: "a senator had written to government making this enquiry about Narendra Modi's probable visit, and the official reply saying that a visa would be denied had been publicized."

The senior BJP leader said he pointed out to Clinton that it was "unfair and improper" to give such a reply without even a request being made, and then to publicize it.

Advani has showered Modi with praises in recent times and risen to his defence whenever situation demanded.

The most recent example was on September 12, when the Supreme Court had passed an order referring the Gulbarga Society riots case of 2002 to a lower court in Gujarat.

Stating that this order had come as a relief to the BJP, Advani had said, "I have not seen any political person maligned in the way Modi has been. In the political history of India, there hasn't been such misinformation propaganda against any other political leader."

The senior BJP leader will attend Modi's three-day fast in Ahmedabad starting from Saturday for peace, unity and harmony in Gujarat. The timing of his blog on Friday is significant in this regard.

Advani, who is Lok Sabha MP from Gandhinagar, is also likely to start his rathyatra against corruption from Gujarat. Another former BJP chief Rajnath Singh, however, skirted the issue of Modi being the likely Prime Ministerial candidate saying that only party president Nitin Gadkari could answer these questions.

Singh avoided making any statement saying that he did not think that he was the right person to comment on the matter.

"Only party President Nitin Gadkari is in a position to answer this question," he told reporters.

Singh defended Modi claiming that his 'Sadbhavna' fast was not a gimmick.

"As a senior leader and a statesman what Modi is trying to do is send a message of harmony," he said.

"It is the Congress that is following policies of man to man discrimination that is vote bank politics. Politics should not be just for government formation but for developing society," Singh said.

He also dismissed suggestions that Advani's latest yatra was part of a vote gathering strategy.

"If Advani had taken out a yatra only in Uttar Pradesh where elections are due, then such questions could have been raised," Rajnath Singh said.

"The country as a whole is passing through difficult times and there were threats to the security of the country on internal as well as external fronts," Singh said.

"China has already surrounded us on all sides. We need to develop social harmony to overcome these challenges," the BJP leader said on
the sidelines of a book release function here.

(Agencies)