Patna, June 20: Shortly after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar asked his alliance partner, the BJP, to name a prime-ministerial candidate with secular credentials before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi toed Nitish’s line and virtually rejected Narendra Modi’s name as the alliance candidate for the “top post”.
Nitish, who has assiduously cultivated his “secular and development-oriented” image over the years, was quite categorical in his interview to a national daily when he said:
“The leader of the coalition should have secular credentials and liberal frame of mind. He should be someone who has absolute faith in democratic values in a multi-religious and multi-lingual country like ours.”
Such is Nitish’s antipathy for Narendra Modi that he ensured Bihar remained out of bounds for the Gujarat leader during 2010 Assembly elections.
Sushil Modi on Tuesday said that it would be better if the BJP-led alliance names its “widely acceptable” prime-ministerial candidate, someone like Vajpayee, much ahead of 2014 polls so that the people of the country could get time to judge and decide.
But the comments from both the top leaders of Bihar drew sharp criticism from the saffron party. “Who will give the certificate of secularism? The stature of Narendra Modi is so tall that he does not need any certificate from anyone,” Animal Husbandry Minister (of the BJP) Giriraj Singh minced no words in slamming the JD (U) strongman without naming him.
“The timing of raking up this issue is horribly wrong. At a time when the NDA is mulling over names of presidential candidate, bringing up the issue of prime-ministerial candidate for 2014 polls makes no sense,” remarked senior BJP MLA from Nokha, Ram Naresh Chaurasia. “Instead,” he opined, “the focus of the person (ruling Bihar) should be on fast development of the state, rather than frequent display of his antipathy towards his Gujarat counterpart.”
Meanwhile, JD (U) president Sharad Yadav is reported to have counselled Nitish to focus on Bihar’s governance. “As and when the time comes, we will decide on the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate,” he is believed to have said. Sharad’s attempt to douse the flames comes after Nitish said he would walk out of the BJP-led alliance if the Gujarat chief minister were to be projected as the prime minister. “I have cordial relations with Bihar BJP. But if external forces are bent on spoiling this relationship, I cannot help,” Nitish reportedly said.
But his bete noire Lalu Prasad on Tuesday took a dig at Nitish and said, “He should first clarify whether there is anyone in the BJP with secular image. Kaheen pe nigahein, kaheen pe nishana. (Eyeing something, targeting someone else?) Is he trying to build a consensus on his name within the NDA?”, he wondered.
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