Modi as PM: Nitish issues warning,party talks pullout

Deepened fault lines in alliance once again pits the Bihar CM against his Gujarat counterpart.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna | Published:June 20, 2012 1:04 am

Calling his remarks “golden words (that) are not repeated”,Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today sharply defined his position that the NDA’s candidate for prime minister should have a “clean and secular” image.

This deepened fault lines in the JD(U)-BJP alliance and once again pitted the Bihar chief minister against his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi.

A top JD(U) leader in Bihar today said that the party would snap its alliance with the BJP if Narendra Modi was projected as prime minister — even as a BJP minister in Nitish’s cabinet launched a direct attack on the CM.

At a JD(U) meeting last week,Nitish had said that the NDA must declare as its prime ministerial candidate a person with a “clean and secular image”. He did not name Narendra Modi,but the implication was clear. More so since his remarks were seen as a counter to the Gujarat CM’s claim that “caste politics is stalling development in Bihar and UP”.

Nitish also used a local proverb that loosely translated as “the pot calling the kettle black”.

Asked about his remark on a “secular” PM candidate after a cabinet meeting here this evening,Nitish Kumar said: “Golden words are not repeated.”

He found support in his deputy and BJP leader Sushil Modi,who stressed the line that the chief minister had taken. “Three weeks ago,we had requested our (BJP) national leadership to announce a candidate for PM as liberal as Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” Sushil Modi said.

Their cabinet colleague and BJP hardliner Giriraj Singh,however,took a completely different line. “Do we need Nitish Kumar to tell us who is secular and who is not? This could be a case of kahin pe nigahein,kahin pe nishaana (suggesting that the Bihar CM is targeting Narendra Modi because he has his eyes set on becoming PM himself).”

Former state minister and frontline JD(U) leader Devesh Chandra Thakur was direct: “JD(U) will break its alliance with BJP if Narendra Modi is projected as the PM.”

In the house of 243 in Bihar (where elections are due in 2015),the JD(U) has 117 MLAs,barely five short of a simple majority.

Lok Janshakti Party leader and Nitish critic Ramvilas Paswan described the chief minister’s remark as a cynical move to position himself for prime ministership. “He knew that Modi was in NDA when he tied up with the BJP. Why didn’t he probe the Godhra attack when he was railway minister? He’s floating his own candidature as PM,” Paswan said.

He added that it was hard to believe that with barely 20 MPs,the JD(U) “could veto the NDA’s choice of PM”.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad said,“Nitish should clarify to all of us who is secular in the NDA. He is in power with the BJP,and then takes a stand on secularism; he wants the best of both worlds.”

The latest JD(U)-BJP spat comes when an increasingly assertive Narendra Modi has got his party president Nitin Gadkari to ease out rival Sanjay Joshi and underline his clout in his party.

The Gujarat chief minister today protested what he said were media reports “misquoting” him. A tweet by him this morning — ‘Will is caused by character,and character by Karma. As is Karma,so is the manifestation of the will’ — was interpreted by TV channels as his veiled riposte to Nitish.

In the evening,Modi tweeted saying he was only quoting Swami Vivekananda. “Every morning I share an inspiring quote of Swami Vivekananda on his 150th anniversary. I request media friends not to misquote it for TRPs,” he said.

The chief minister’s opponent within the Gujarat BJP,Keshubhai Patel,has been camping in Delhi for the past few days. He met senior leader L K Advani today.

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