Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s unease with his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi becoming the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) prime ministerial candidate in 2014 general elections may be “irrelevant and unfortunate” to the BJP.
“It is an irrelevant and unfortunate debate,” leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said on Thursday on Nitish Kumar’s comments against Narendra Modi. “The focus at present is the presidential poll and the issue of PM candidature has no immediate relevance.”
But those close to Kumar say he has good reasons for striking now. Like many others in the BJP, Kumar is “sure” that Modi is bound for a larger role after the assembly polls in Gujarat early next year.
Kumar also thinks that the BJP may not anoint Modi as the PM candidate immediately due to internal rivalries. But it is sure to keep all options open till the Lok Sabha election results. Modi’s “larger than life” image will ensure that his name remains on top.
Sources close to Kumar said if he remained silent, it would lead to the undoing of his party's own base in Bihar, where for many voters, Modi remains an anathema.
He would also be accused by the BJP or his other political rivals that he came out “too late.”
Sources emphasised Kumar is not contemplating any tie-up with the Congress, which he thinks is “beyond revival” before 2014 and is still cosy with Lalu Prasad’s RJD.
Kumar is also not insisting on any particular leader from the BJP being the PM candidate. All he wants is to keep Modi at bay, sources said. Also, the BJP must not keep the issue of PM candidature wrapped in ambiguity till the Lok Sabha elections.
Kumar wants the BJP to understand that Modi is not acceptable to him.
“If Narendra Modi’s arrival at the centre-stage is inevitable, Nitish Kumar’s parting is also inevitable,” said a close aide of the Bihar chief minister. As for the presidential election, Kumar conveyed to senior BJP leaders that he could not understand why they were insisting on using this as an occasion to “expand” the NDA’s list of allies.