Patna, Aug. 12: A 90-minute parley between Nitish Kumar and BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi is being viewed as part of the chief minister’s “well worked out” move to isolate his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi within the national party.
Nitish and Joshi, who is on a three-day visit to the state, had a closed-door meeting at the house of BJP veteran R.K. Sinha over tea from 6.30pm to 8pm yesterday.
Nitish and Joshi did not divulge what transpired in the quiet-but-long session. Sources, however, revealed that Nitish tried his heart out to “convince” the senior leader to find out NDA’s prime ministerial candidate, other than Narendra Modi, from within the BJP.
Confirming his meeting with Nitish, Joshi said: “The JD(U) is a valued NDA partner. The BJP honours Nitish’s suggestions.”
After publicly demanding that the BJP declare a “secular” prime ministerial candidate ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Nitish is believed to have been quietly but assiduously working hard with the alliance partner to “help” the latter in finding out the candidate before Modi “wins” the Gujarat elections later this year and steps up his campaign to stay ahead in the race for the Prime Minister’s post.
Nitish’s demand for a “secular” prime ministerial candidate in July was a direct indication of his disapproval of Modi. It had created a flutter within the NDA. But working with a “calm and calculated” demeanour, Nitish followed up on what he had stated by personally meeting the BJP chief, Nitin Gadkari, in New Delhi on July 25.
Nitish’s talks with Gadkari paid off with the party chief announcing: “The BJP would discuss with all the NDA allies while deciding the prime ministerial candidate. The BJP has not yet decided on its candidate.” Gadkari’s statement was interpreted in the Bihar’s political circles as his “guarantee” to Nitish that the BJP would not project Modi as its prime ministerial candidate against the Bihar CM’s wish.
On his part, Nitish has repeatedly made it clear that he was not in the race for the post and he wanted a leader of the biggest partner in the alliance, that is the BJP, to pick up a candidate who could be acceptable to “all the allies and all sections of the society”.
Sources close to Nitish said: “Nitish is not at all in the prime ministerial race. What he is actually worried about is the fact that the NDA would lose the support of the 15 per cent Muslims that Nitish has painstakingly worked for, once the BJP gives a whiff of projecting his Gujarat counterpart as the PM’s nominee.”
What worries Nitish is his feeling that even a semblance of support for Modi would touch the raw nerve of the Muslims and if they decide to shift to his arch rival Lalu Prasad, who enjoys the support of his over 16 per cent Yadav castemen, the NDA’s prospect in the state will be in instant danger.
A senior JD(U) leader said Nitish’s words with the top BJP leaders have always carried “more weight” than that of Modi, who continued to have “more enemies than friends” within his own party at the national level.
“Senior BJP leaders, including Advani, Arun Jaitley, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, Gadkari and Joshi listen more to Nitish’s logic than pay much attention to Narendra Modi, brazenly positioning himself as the prime ministerial candidate,” he said.