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Truce over Jaswant

Patna, July 16: Nitish Kumar today offered an olive branch to the BJP with the JD(U) agreeing to support Jaswant Singh as the vice-presidential candidate against the UPA’s Hamid Ansari.

“The JD(U) is with the NDA’s decision to make Jaswant Singh its vice-presidential candidate,” the Bihar chief minister said.

A chill had set in the relations between the Bihar allies after Nitish’s statement that the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate should have “secular” credentials — a pointed dig at Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The tensions escalated when the JD(U) broke ranks with the BJP and backed UPA’s Pranab Mukherjee for President.

Nitish today sought to calm frayed nerves. “There is no difference, whatsoever, between the JD(U) and BJP. We are working in cooperation with each other,” Nitish said on the sidelines of his weekly janata darbar. “We are conscious of our responsibility towards the coalition.”

He issued fresh gag orders on the party’s spokespersons. “The spokespersons should speak on issues. They should not issue statements targeting individuals,” Nitish said.

Though Nitish was not opposed to Ansari, sources said he didn’t want to be seen as an alliance-wrecker. Hence, the sources said, he asked the BJP, through the JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav, to come out with a proposal.

The BJP too, in its efforts to keep the alliance intact, first asked Sharad to contest the vice-presidential polls.

By extending his support to Jaswant, Nitish is also believed to have made it clear that his differences with the BJP were confined only to the issues secularism and Narendra Modi.