Nitish takes a dig at Modi, JD-U sets deadline

New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) A day after the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) came out against Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial candidature, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Sunday took a dig at Modi, saying one state’s model of development cannot be a possible answer to India’s ills.

A resolution passed at the end of the two-day JD-U national executive meeting here also asked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to name its prime ministerial candidate by the end of this year.

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.

Addressing some 1,300 delegates of JD-U, the second larger member of the NDA, Nitish Kumar took a dig at Modi and thundered that his party would never give up 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 had asked him to follow ‘rajdharma’ after the 2002 Gujarat riots.

“You need Atalji’s approach of taking everyone along to run this country,” he 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 take Modi’s 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.”

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.

But he said there was no problem in the BJP-JD-U 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 BJP broke down in future, the JD-U will take a decision depending on the situation.”

He said when the BJP and 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 Hindu 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.

There was no immediate reaction from the BJP to Nitish Kumar’s comments, but party president Rajnath Singh called Modi its most popular leader.

“Narendra Modi is the most popular BJP leader as of now,” Rajnath Singh said on CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate programme.

“I cannot say who will be the PM candidate but he (Modi) is undoubtedly the most popular leader.”

Asked about Modi’s projection of himself as the prime ministerial candidate, Rajnath Singh said: “Narendra Modi has never said he should be projected as the PM candidate.”

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