Patna: Even as JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar got talking about the NDA's Prime Ministerial candidate, the state's Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said it was too early to talk about it. "I do not know what has been said. The 2014 elections are far away, it's too early to talk about them. The Prime Ministerial candidate will be decided by the party and then the NDA. The Prime Ministerial candidate will be decided by the NDA and not the BJP," Modi said.
Denying any rift within the NDA, Modi said, "The NDA alliance is not in danger in Bihar, it is strong here." The JD(U) on Tuesday made it clear that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is not acceptable to it as the Prime Ministerial candidate. In an interview to the national daily 'Economic Times', Nitish Kumar insisted that the NDA should name its Prime Ministerial candidate before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the candidate must have secular credentials and a liberal frame of mind.
The Shiv Sena backed Nitish and said that NDA's Prime Ministerial candidate should be announced before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. "I agree with what Nitish Kumar has said. The NDA's Prime Ministerial candidate should be announced well before 2014. I agree with Nitish that the decision has to be of the NDA collectively and not the BJP alone. All allies like the JDU, Akali Dal have to be on board," Raut said.
Sushil Kumar Modi said the Prime Ministerial candidate will be decided by the NDA collectively and not by the BJP.
The Bihar unit of the BJP has also hit back saying the definition of secularism should first be debated. Bihar BJP MLA Giriraj Singh said, "We also want a secular PM, but the Congress can't think they are the only ones who are secular. They supported the Muslims and Lalu Prasad did nothing during the Bhagalpur riots."
Meanwhile, Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy said there was nothing wrong in Nitish expressing himself. "Everyone is free to express their views in the NDA. Nitish Kumar did'nt take any name directly, he has every right to express his views. We respect his view. But ultimately the NDA decision will matter."
This is not the first time that the Bihar Chief Minister has made his aversion to Modi apparent. In 2011, at a BJP executive in Patna, the two were at loggerheads over an advertisement issued by the Gujarat BJP.
Modi has also been taking digs at politicians from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar for what the Gujarat Chief Minister calls resorting to caste based politics.
Nitish had then said that Modi, who has been a constant irritant in the JD(U)-BJP coalition ties in Bihar, should mind his own business instead of making comments on others.
"One should think about one's own situation (Bihar par tippani karne walon ko apne halaat ke bare me sochana chahiye)", he had told reporters in reply to a question when asked for his reaction to Modi's remarks targeting Bihar leaders.
Modi and Nitish have been involved in many spats in the past.
10 June, 2012: Modi accused Bihar politicians of resorting to caste-based politics.
2009: Nitish cancelled a dinner meet to protest against an advertisement released by Gujarat BJP that showed him and Modi together.
2009: Nitish returned Modi government's Rs 5 crore flood relief cheque for Kosi flood victims.
(With additional information from PTI)