New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Sunday slammed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions without naming him as his JD-U put pressure on the BJP to name its prime ministerial candidate by the year end.
It was the most unambiguous public expression of opposition within the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to Modi, widely seen in his own party and by his supporters as a prime ministerial candidate.
Nitish Kumar took a dig at Modi, saying one state’s model of development cannot be a possible answer to India’s ills, and his Janata Dal-United also set a December deadline for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to name its prime ministerial candidate. The two-day JD-U national executive specified this in a political resolution passed at its two-day meeting here.
Addressing some 1,300 delegates of the JD-U, the second-largest member of the NDA, Nitish Kumar thundered that his party would never give up on secularism.
He said his party’s alliance with the BJP — the two together run the Bihar government — could continue only if “some fundamental issues” were made clear.
Nitish Kumar invoked former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who after the 2002 Gujarat riots had asked Modi to follow ‘raj dharma’.
“You need Atalji’s approach of taking everyone along to run this country,” Nitish Kumar said. “Only a person who can understand the diversity of this country can lead it.”
Alluding to an incident when Modi refused to accept a skull cap from a group of Muslims, the Bihar chief minister said to applause: “You have to respect everyone. Sometimes you have to wear a cap, sometimes you have to sport a ’tilak’.”
In his speech, Nitish Kumar did not mentioon Modi by name even once.
But in an obvious criticism of the Gujarat leader, Nitish Kumar said the Indian electorate was intelligent enough to see through speeches.
“The people of this country may not be very educated but they are intelligent,” he said.
Nitish Kumar underlined that economic development was taking place everywhere, and one state (read Gujarat) could not be cited as an example for the rest of the country.
“What kind of development do we want?” he then asked. And in remarks clearly aimed at Modi, he said he would not want a development model that kept large chunks of people deprived of drinking water.
However, he made it clear there was no problem in the JD-U-BJP alliance in Bihar.
“We want to walk together and we don’t want to leave anyone,” he said. “But certain fundamental issues should be made clear.”
He said the JD-U would never give up its principle of secular values. “If its alliance with the BJP breaks down in future, the JD-U will take a decision depending on the situation.”
Nitish Kumar said when the BJP-JD-U alliance came up, it was made clear that certain divisive issues close to the BJP’s heart would have to be set aside.
These included the BJP’s demand to scrap Article 370 of the constitution giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the demand for a uniform civil code and the call to build a grand temple at the site of the razed Babri mosque in Ayodhya.
Nitish Kumar’s comments came a day after the JD-U declared that support to Modi — who has been addressing meetings praising his own Gujarat administration — would compromise its secular credentials.
The BJP hit back at the JD-U.
“It is unfortunate if they concentrate their energies on our chief ministerial candidate and dilute the focus of removing the UPA. The BJP will continue its determined effort in this direction. We reject all unfounded inferences against Modi,” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters.
BJP chief Rajnath Singh called Modi its most popular leader but refrained from naming him th party’s prime ministerial candidate.
“Narendra Modi is the most popular BJP leader as of now. I cannot say who will be the PM candidate,” Rajnath Singh said on CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate programme.
The Congress termed it an internal affair of the NDA.
“JD-U is an ally of the BJP. We don’t have to comment on what they discuss among themselves,” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi told IANS.