Patna, June 17: Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s polite but firm stand that the JD(U) favoured “nothing else than consensus” on the UPA’s presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee apparently compelled the NDA today to defer its decision on the issue after a two-hour-long meeting in New Delhi.
Sources in the JD(U) said the Bihar chief minister had been advocating for “consensus” on Pranab for a state cause and a reason touch personal. In lieu of support to the UPA presidential candidate, he expects special category status to Bihar from the Centre. Also, Nitish is believed to be hardly interested in the BJP-led NDA widening its base at the national-level through presidential election, particularly after the BJP started projecting Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as a national leader with the backing of the RSS.
Sources in the JD(U) said Nitish might stick to his stand of supporting Pranab if the BJP forced an election, driving the 16-year-old BJP-JD(U) alliance to the brink again. Nitish was firm on not allowing Modi to campaign in Bihar a “non-negotiable” issue and eventually had his way.
The Bihar chief minister has also renewed his campaign for the special category status to Bihar by writing a fresh letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and chalking out an agitation plan. At the same time, he is believed to have assiduously been working for a “consensus” on Pranab.
He today reminded Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh about his letter to the Prime Minister. Sources said so did Jairam about Singh calling him personally to seek support for the candidature of Pranab.
The Bihar chief minister was said to be peeved at the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, for opposing Pranab’s candidature last month because the latter was a hardcore Congressman. The JD(U) leadership had soon dissociated itself from Sushma’s remarks.
Sources in the BJP said a section of the party was willing to use the presidential poll as an opportunity to widen the NDA’s base by renewing its ties with Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Sharad Yadav, as the NDA convener, did a balancing act today, saying the NDA leaders would meet again to take a final decision. But the JD(U) national general secretary, Shivanand Tiwary, reportedly spoke Nitish’s mind at the NDA meeting.
“Pranab Mukherjee has been a leader of impeccable stature all through. He is the most deserving candidate. We should work out a consensus around him than going for election in favour of the candidate/candidates who do not exist in reality,” Tiwary was quoted as saying in the meet.