New Delhi: After a stern warning from the Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) prime ministerial candidate, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit out at its biggest ally saying it should refrain from targeting its allies and instead focus on removing the "corrupt" United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Nitish had, in a veiled threat to the BJP, made it clear that his party will not accept the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the NDA's prime ministerial nominee.
"It is unfortunate if they (JD(U)) concentrate their energies on our chief ministers and dilute focus on ousting UPA. We reject all unfounded inference against Narendra Modi," said BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman, targeting Nitish, who said only someone who can take all sections of society together can become take the top post.
The BJP also hinted that since Modi has been praised for Gujarat's development, Nitish might have felt it unfair and that may be the reason for his criticism. "Though Nitish is developing Bihar, he may feel Gujarat has progressed more," BJP leader Kalraj Mishra said.
"We want to remain together. When did we say that we want to part ways? But when we want to stay together, there are some fundamental issues," Nitish had said earlier on Sunday, making no bones about his reservations on Modi.
Nitish also warned said if the BJP changes direction, it would create problems for the alliance. "When we joined hands with the BJP, it was decided contentious issues like BJP views on article 370 and Ram Janmabhoomi will be kept at bay. If there is an attempt to digress there from the path, there will be trouble," the JD(U) leader said. "Only one who can carry with him all the diverse sections of people can become the leader of the nation. This was Atal Behari Vajpayee's personality. Now, if there is an attempt to change the path, there is bound to be problems. The country does not run by mere projection. Some persons think they will create a wave and people will accept it," he added.
He also pushed for the "inclusive" growth model of Bihar. "Every citizen in Bihar is a stakeholder in the state's development. We are delivering development with social justice to Hindus, Muslims, the upper class and lower class," Nitish said.
In an apparent dig at Modi for his frequent reference to the Gujarat model of development, Nitish said many people accept it as development even when a developed state grows, and stressed that there is a need to see from where did a particular state start its development march. Citing the case of Bihar where the NDA alliance led by him is in power for more than seven years, Nitish said, "Why will we go for genetic modification when the crop is in pink of health? Negative results are bound to happen if one makes an attempt of genetic modification."
Party President Sharad Yadav, however, chose to go a bit soft on the issue making an impassioned plea to keep alliance intact. Yadav, who was re-elected as JD(U) president for the third consecutive time, asked party leaders to desist from taking names but clearly pointed towards the "restlessness" in JD(U) on the issue of Modi and reminded "ideology is thicker than blood".
Alluding to the "Rajdharma" comment made by then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Modi after the post-Godhra riots, Nitish said while somebody could run one state in "this or that manner", it is difficult to govern the whole country like that. "There is a need for Atal Behari Vajpayee-like thinking to govern this country. Atalji always used to say follow your Rajdharma," he said, making clear that "if our view is ignored, then we will take a step...We want the train to be on track but if the train derails, we will decide according to the situation and time on what to do. Who has seen tomorrow?"
Nitish's comments, which came a day after JD(U) vehemently denied having any truck with "enemy" Congress at the cost of "friend" BJP, are being interpreted in political circles as an attempt to position his party neutrally ahead of the next Lok Sabha polls if Modi is projected by BJP as its PM candidate.
"Compromises are made in politics but there are certain fundamental principles. Compromising with secularism to remain in power, no we will never do it. We cannot compromise with our basic principles," the Bihar Chief Minister said. In the backdrop of Modi's recent address at public forums drawing analogies of a Modi versus Rahul Gandhi battle for 2014, Nitish said some people can create a so-called wave.
"We have seen many such waves. The series of such waves keep happening in the country. We should not be over-affected by them. The country does not run by creating waves. People think that they will create an atmosphere and then people will accept them. This does not work," he said.
In a veiled reference to the political polarisation in the country after the Gujarat riots, Sharad Yadav said, "In 2004, Atalji asked how could I, too, lose elections, I told him you also know the reason". Yadav had lost the election from Madhepura Lok Sabha seat in Bihar then to RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
While assuring the partymen that the "difficulties" that have cropped in within NDA in recent period will be sorted out, Yadav made it clear, "Our alliance is 17-years-old. We want to run this alliance."
"Some difficulties have cropped up in between. This sometimes lead to a feeling whether we have drifted away from our principles. What this restlessness is all about? This restlessness is about our principles. This restlessness is about our ideals," Yadav said.
He, however, added, "Many difficulties came in the alliance but we have surmounted them. We have a national agenda and have the commitment of Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani to it. When we regularly interacted, why should we be restless?"
Yadav also reminded that the Bihar Chief Minister has a "longer association" than him with BJP amid speculation that Nitish was inching closer to Congress. "One Dr (Ram Manohar) Lohia broke the hands and legs of Congress government. They did what nobody could do. The controversy which is on right now, I want to make it clear that we have no selfish interest in it. But we have a tradition and nobody will forgive Nitish and Sharad and others sitting here. Based on our principles and practical aspects of politics, we walk as part of a coalition and its been 17 years running this coalition," he said.
Advising party leaders to "speak a bit less", Yadav said, "We have nothing to do with any particular person...This fight is only for principles...We should avoid taking names...There were many differences when Atalji and Advaniji were there. But they never said anything about us outside. Nor did we."
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)