The gloves came off entirely in the JD(U)s ongoing attacks on Narendra Modi today,with party spokespersons saying they would prefer walking out of the NDA and losing power in Bihar to backing the Gujarat chief minister as the NDAs prime ministerial candidate.
While senior BJP leaders continued to be silent,Rajya Sabha member Balbir Punj said no one had the right to issue a fatwa on secularism. And RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat slammed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumars political opportunism.
Nitish whose call for a clean and secular NDA prime ministerial candidate last week triggered the spat (The Indian Express,June 15) upped the ante further tonight. The NDA would not have lost power in 2004 had Prime Minister A B Vajpayee been allowed to sack the Modi government for not adhering to rajdharma, PTI quoted him as saying.
Earlier,JD(U) national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Shivanand Tiwari said the BJP must realise that it could not hope to come to power by putting a fanatic face in front.
People who voted for BJP due to the liberal face of Vajpayee went away from it after the Gujarat riots,and the floating votes went to Congress because people do not accept fanatic politics, Tiwari said.
Those people in the BJP who want the party to come to power will have to realise that they cannot do so by putting a fanatic face in front.
He added,We will not compromise on our secularism,whether our government in Bihar stays or not. We are ready to lose power in Bihar and walk out of the NDA,but we can never accept Narendra Modi as prime minister. Forget his acceptability in the NDA,even Atal Bihari Vajpayee had told him about adhering to rajdharma after the Gujarat riots.
Another JD(U) national spokesperson Shakil Ahmed Khan told The Indian Express that being in the NDA did not oblige his party to accept Modi as prime minister.
Being part of the NDA and having an alliance with the BJP in Bihar had never meant that the JD(U) has accepted Narendra Modi as well. Anyone who takes the reins of the country must have a secular image,which Modi does not.
Asked if the insistence on a secular PM was intended to put pressure on the BJP at a time when the partners seemed to be divided on supporting Pranab Mukhejee as president,Khan said: The two things cannot be linked. We were provoked only because Modi seemed to be in a great rush to project himself as a PM candidate.
There has been increasing unease in both the BJP and NDA over Modis recent posturing. Nitishs golden words targeted clearly at Modi even though the Bihar CM did not name him were said to a meeting of JD(U) leaders after Modi remarked that caste politics was stalling development in Bihar and UP.
In Latur,speaking at a meeting of the RSS,Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat attacked Nitish,saying his comments were intended to keep his votebank intact.
Nitish Kumar has said NDAs prime ministerial candidate should be secular. This shows political opportunism. He has made the statement so that his votebank remains intact, PTI quoted Bhagwat as saying. Hinduism,Bhagwat was reported to have said,was the religion of humanism,and India needed a prime minister who believed in that ideology.
Shakil Ahmed Khan retorted that the RSS,on which several riots commissions had passed adverse remarks,has no business to define secularism. If the JD(U) or Nitish Kumar cannot decide NDAs prime ministerial candidate,the RSS too cannot dictate terms to us.
Shivanand Tiwari said there appeared to be two lines of thinking in the BJP today. One is that there is a need for a larger group like the NDA if it wants to return to power. The second line is to go back to its pre-1996 ideology. This is what is reflected in the statement of the RSS chief, he said.
While there was no official reaction from the BJP either in Delhi or Patna,BJP Rajya Sabha member Balbir Punj said,This is a needless controversy. Nobody has the right in this country to pass a fatwa as to who is secular and who is not. People have their opinions.
With the war of words seemingly escalating,Punj was later learnt to have been cautioned by party leaders against adding fuel to the fire. The Sangh too appeared to attempt to cool tempers.
RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said in Delhi that it was uncalled for to link Mohan Bhagwats views to day-to-day happenings on the political front and to the statements of certain leaders.