Former Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari on Thursday denied he assured the Janata Dal United that Narendra Modi will not be projected as the party's prime ministerial candidate.
The clarification came after newspaper reports claimed Gadkari, in a meeting with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in July last year, had assured the alliance partner that the Gujarat chief minister will not be projected for the top post.
The report, quoting sources from the JD (U), said Gadkari had said Modi could not be declared the prime ministerial candidate as there was no unanimity on his name, and some BJP leaders too had reservations against him.
A statement issued by Gadkari's office said that the former BJP president, along with Rajya Sabha leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley, met Nitish Kumar July 2012, but denied the claims of the report.
"The three leaders had reviewed the political situation in the country and discussed the NDA strategy for the next general elections, due in 2014," the statement said.
"Shri Nitish Kumar had raised the issue of the prospective NDA leader for the Lok Sabha polls. Both Shri Gadkari and Shri Jaitley had told Shri Kumar that the BJP had not taken a decision on projecting anyone as its prime ministerial candidate. The BJP leadership would discuss the issue at the appropriate time and certainly take all the NDA partners into confidence," said the statement.
"Shri Gadkari and Shri Jaitley had not given any assurance to Shri Kumar that Shri Modi would not be projected as the prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections," it added.
The statement said, "Whether the BJP would project someone before the elections or elect the NDA leader after the polls, too, would be taken up by the party leadership at the appropriate time and a decision would be taken in consultation with the NDA allies."
The JD (U) and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar have made their position clear, and said the party would only back a secular person for the job. It has also demanded that the BJP declare its candidate.
On Wednesday, the Shiv Sena also echoed the JD (U) position and said the BJP must clarify its stance on the prime ministerial candidate.
In a strongly worded editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said the BJP had the right to nominate its candidate for prime minister but it could not take a unilateral decision.