New Delhi, July 27: Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar called on Jaswant Singh today at his residence offering his endorsement and support for Singh’s candidacy in the Vice-President’s election.
Singh is the NDA’s candidate for the post.
The big difference between the presidential and the vice-presidential poll is that the NDA is going into the latter as a near-united block with the Dal (U) and the Shiv Sena on board.
“The NDA has come together fully,” said Singh.
BJP sources said they were not “100 per cent” sure of which way their Jharkhand allies, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the AJSU, would swing. In the presidential election, the Dal (U), Sena and the Jharkhand constituents plumped for Pranab Mukherjee, leaving the NDA shrunk and battered.
Speaking to The Telegraph today, Singh said: “I had told Nitishji that I would come to Patna and make a courtesy visit and solicit his endorsement and support. He said, I will come to your house. I am grateful to him, it was gracious of the CM. We worked together for many years as colleagues in the NDA government.”
Nitish, who was accompanied by his general secretary Shivanand Tiwari, spent nearly an hour with Singh and spoke about the state of the country, especially on the rainfall shortage and its implications for food security.
When asked what caused the Dal (U) to rethink its stance on the Vice-President’s election, a source gave two reasons: One, had the party gone along with UPA candidate Hamid Ansari, the decision would have hastened a break in its alliance with the BJP and “perhaps” brought down the Bihar coalition government. Second, the source said, Singh was “totally acceptable” to Nitish and his party because of his “soft and liberal” image in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee mould.
The source admitted: “There was no political gain to be had by again backing the UPA because this would have meant the end of the BJP-Dal (U) relationship. The Congress is not an option in Bihar. We went with the BJP to keep Lalu Prasad Yadav out in Bihar, the reason still remains.”
BJP sources claimed that in their latest face-off with the Dal (U) — after Nitish went his own way on the presidential vote and dared the BJP to declare its prime ministerial candidate — they were determined they would “not blink”.
“Nitish perhaps reckoned that we would give in and say (Narendra) Modi will be confined to Gujarat. Our view was if he is so dead against Modi, so be it, he’s free to chart his own path,” a source said.
Indeed, a BJP leader, who is close to the Bihar chief minister, was told in so many words at an internal meeting that he should not be conciliatory to Nitish. Nobody from the BJP attempted to reach out to Nitish as long as the impasse persisted.
In the prelude to the Vice-President election on August 7, Singh, helped by BJP leaders Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Shahnawaz Hussain, planned to call on Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa. He said he had spoken to her and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik to seek their votes.
Singh said he expected Jayalalithaa and Patnaik to make a simultaneous declaration of support.
He said he would have liked to call on Sena leaders Bal Thackeray and his son Uddhav in Mumbai. But Thackeray senior is in hospital while Uddhav is recuperating after an angioplasty.
When asked about media reports saying the Gujarat BJP was not entirely happy with his nomination because of his “sympathetic” portrayal of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in a book on Partition he had authored, Singh said: “The BJP has rallied behind me solidly. I have not spoken to our CMs. The party president is doing it.”
He said he hoped to reach out to Mamata Banerjee in an event in Darjeeling on August 4 that he would attend as its MP. “She too is an old colleague from the NDA,” said Singh, adding he had not yet approached the Trinamul Congress leader personally or through an intermediary.
“I’d rather give the message to her personally,” he said.
Singh stressed that the vice-presidential poll would “launch the NDA with a renewed vigour and purpose and commitment to serve the nation well in the coming days”.