On the first day of its national conclave, BJP ally Janata Dal (United) again trained its guns on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of having failed to control the 2002 riots in the state.
“Our view is that Modi failed to do what was expected of him…to control the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. It is for the BJP to answer whether such an individual can become a successful prime minister,” JD(U) spokesman KC Tyagi said.
But he added: “We don’t bargain with or exert pressure on friends.” The underlying message was that the JD(U) did not want a split, and the onus was on the BJP to address its partner’s worries over Modi, a charismatic but polarising figure who is the party cadres’ first choice for PM candidate.
The hard line on Modi sets the tone for the meeting, which many expect will see the JD(U) forcing the BJP to show its cards on whether it really wants to project him for the top job. On Sunday, the JD(U)’s national council is set to come out with resolutions on the state of the nation and on its differences with the BJP on the Kashmir issue.
Tyagi said that Bihar's JD(U) chief minister, Nitish Kumar, for his part, was not a candidate for PM. Nitish is scheduled to address an open session on Sunday. There was a buzz that Nitish would meet BJP president Rajnath Singh on Saturday night, but Singh's aides would not confirm this.
Tyagi walked a tight rope, going to some lengths to scotch any talk of cosying up to the Congress.
“The Congress is an enemy party,” he said, adding that it had a poor alliance track record. In the unkindest cut of all, Tyagi said the Congress had no right to question Modi as it was “complicit” in the 1984 Delhi riots.
The JD(U) executive meet saw the party’s presidents from states like Karnataka and Jharkhand claiming that the BJP had violated coalition dharma, and the seats allotted to the JD(U) in assembly polls had shrunk over the years.