New Delhi: The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) drama played out on Sunday with the Janata Dal United (JDU) giving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a year-end deadline to declare its Prime Ministerial candidate. By Sunday evening, the BJP hit back saying that the key NDA ally should rather focus on targeting the UPA than its own allies.
Hoping to gain some advantage of this BJP-JD(U) squabble, the Bihar Congress tried to woo the state's Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Bihar Congress chief Ashok Choudhary said, "When Nitish Kumar will take a stand like they don't want BJP, then there is the question of an alliance with any secular party. But when Nitish Kumar is tied up with BJP in the state, how can he be secular? When Nitishji will leave the BJP, we will ponder over the circumstances and take a decision."
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar without naming Narendra Modi made his opposition to the Gujarat Chief Minister apparent in his valedictory address at the end of the JD(U) National Council. Nitish minced no words in warning his long standing ally that he would not think twice before pulling out of the NDA if Modi is projected as the PM candidate by the BJP.
"What can be said of life, one day you have power and the next day it is gone. But we won't compromise on principles for the sake of power," Nitish said.
Almost tearing into the political and development model of Narendra Modi assiduously built over the past one month through a media blitzkrieg, Nitish re-iterated that he was not in the PM race, saying, "We do not live in any illusion, we are a small party."
But at the same time, the JD(U) categorically spelt out a benchmark for NDA's PM candidate. In the political resolution, the party demanded that the NDA candidate must be bound by a pre-defined agenda for governance, shouldn't digress from previously agreed alliance stand on the three issues, secular credentials of the candidate must be beyond doubt. It said the PM nominee must support an inclusive model of political and economic development and be committed towards the needs of backward states and most importantly this candidate must be decalred by the NDA before the year end.
"The leader will have to understand the psyche of the people of a diverse multi-religious and multi-lingual country like India. Mere atmospherics would not do.. The Prime Minister should be like Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He always used to talk about following the raj dharma," Nitish said. By talking about inclusive growth, Nitish reached out to potential post poll allies Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik.
Nitish Kumar has put the ball in the BJP's court making it amply clear that the onus to keep the alliance intact is on the saffron party which can do so by keeping Narendra Modi away from the top job.
BJP also launched a counter attack releasing a statement vetted by its top leaders. "It's unfortunate if they concentrate their energies on our CMs and dilute focus on ousting the UPA. We reject all unfounded inferences against Narendra Modi," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman said.