New Delhi, Aug. 5: BJP president Nitin Gadkari has “assured” Nitish Kumar that “as of now”, the party is not inclined to project a prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election, BJP sources have said.
Gadkari also told the Bihar chief minister that if the BJP and its allies were indeed in a position to form a government at the Centre in 2014, the Prime Minister would be chosen through a consensus within the NDA, the sources added.
The context for the “assurance” was the prospect of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi emerging as a strong contender for the Prime Minister’s post if he won the state elections for a third time this winter.
It was also meant to placate Nitish at a time the Bihar BJP has been raising a slogan across the state that goes: “Desh ka pradhan mantri kaisa ho? Narendra Modi jaisa ho (What should the country’s Prime Minister be like? He should be like Narendra Modi).”
Gadkari’s “assurances” to Nitish came over dinner on July 25 at the home of Arun Jaitley, the Rajya Sabha Opposition leader, the sources said. The Janata Dal (United) leader, who was in Delhi to attend the swearing-in of Pranab Mukherjee as President, had apparently asked to meet Gadkari.
BJP sources said that though Gadkari had been in “shock” since learning that the Dal (United) would vote for the UPA’s presidential nominee instead of the NDA’s, he agreed to meet Nitish and have a “free-wheeling chat”.
“He decided to put the past behind him and work towards keeping the NDA together,” a source said.
BJP veteran L.K. Advani, however, added his own twist to the topic in his blog today.
He wrote that the possibility of a non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Minister heading a government supported by either the Congress or the BJP in 2014 was “feasible”. But he added that similar arrangements in the past had always come unstuck, mid-term.
The BJP eschewed official comment on Advani’s blog following Gadkari’s directive to spokespersons not to react to his statements. But privately, leaders described Advani’s attitude as “main nahin to koi nahin (if not me, no one else)”, drawing on unconfirmed reports that the RSS had told him not to contest in 2014.
Bihar BJP sources said they had told their Delhi bosses that if Nitish continued to maintain his “tough” stance on Modi, the BJP should be prepared to dump the ally. They have also argued against any more give-and-take over seats with the Dal (United).
They said that of the 12 vacant seats in the Bihar legislative council, the BJP must claim the five in its quota and insist on a sixth in return for its second preference votes in favour of a Dal (United) candidate in the recent Rajya Sabha elections.
Central BJP sources said Nitish was raking up the Modi issue periodically for three reasons.
One, to undermine Modi’s standing in Gujarat before the state polls so that he could not successfully campaign on the plank that if he won a third time, Gujarat would be on its way to getting another Prime Minister after Morarji Desai.
Two, to shore up his own “secular” credentials by portraying Modi as “communal”, so that his Bihar rival Lalu Prasad did not have a chance to attack him on this score.
Three, to strengthen his own claim for the top job at the head of a “secular” third front coalition.