The Telegraph
Tuesday , January 29 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Division bell over PM post

Patna, Jan. 28: The JD(U) today reacted sharply to BJP leader Yashwant Sinha’s statement on favouring Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate.

“We were expecting the orchestra in favour of the Gujarat chief minister. But there are two points. First, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had made it clear about the choice of his candidate for the Prime Minister’s post. Second, it was decided that the BJP would decide the prime ministerial candidate after consulting the NDA constituents. We will make our stand clear whenever that time comes,” said a close aide of Nitish.

The leader added that it would not be appropriate for the JD(U) to react to Sinha’s comments. “After all, who is Yashwant Sinha?” he asked.

JD(U) national spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari said his party would not react to every statement of BJP leaders.

“The JD(U) has made it clear that the BJP has every right to pick its leader. But we have our views on what sort of leader we would like to see as the NDA’s PM candidate,” he added.

JD(U) insiders said it would be impossible for Nitish to make a compromise on a “secular PM candidate”.

“The moment the BJP announces Modi as the PM candidate, Nitish would have no option but to quit the NDA. There is no issue between the two partners except Modi,” a source said.

Ever since Nitish issued a statement in favour of a “secular PM candidate”, the BJP-JD(U) alliance came under strain. The two parties had launched separate demonstration for a same demand — special status for Bihar. Nitish added fuel to speculations about an impending rift by declaring that he would support “any combination that gives Bihar a special status”.

It was widely believed that Nitish was keeping his options open for an alliance with the Congress — at least a post-poll coalition. The abrupt generosity shown by the Centre in meeting some demands of Nitish in fields like rural roads and power had strengthened the perception. But in the past three months, tempers had cooled down and it was believed that the BJP-JD(U) alliance would remain intact in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The situation changed after the Gujarat Assembly elections, when the clamour for Modi as PM was on the rise even in Bihar. The function for electing the new BJP state president, Mangal Pandey, saw party workers and leaders raising slogans in favour of Modi. Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, however, said the alliance with the JD(U) had helped the BJP grow in the state.