Allies JD(U) and Shiv Sena may be piling pressure on BJP to declare its prime ministerial candidate to checkmate Narendra Modi's nomination but the saffron party president Rajnath Singh is in no great hurry to oblige.
However, he does not want a break in the alliance with the JD(U) and would like to sort out issues with it.
While there is a growing clamour in BJP for declaring Modi as the party's prime ministerial candidate, Singh, who like many other leaders, has been describing the Gujarat chief minister as the party's most popular leader, prefers to keep the cards close to his chest on the leadership issue.
"NDA will meet at an appropriate time to decide on that (PM candidate)," Singh told PTI in an interview when asked about the year-end deadline set by JD(U) for declaring BJP's PM choice.
Singh was also cautious answering a question on some voices favouring veteran leader LK Advani as the prime ministerial candidate.
Singh said any decision on whom to project or whether to project anybody at all would be taken by the Parliamentary Board, the party's highest decision-making body.
He then went on to add, "In our party there is no race and nobody makes a claim either for chief minister or for prime minister."
JD(U) has been strongly opposed to Modi's projection as PM candidate and in apparent attempts to sabotage this, it had been pressing NDA to declare its prime ministerial candidate by December, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls expected around May next year.
The JD(U), which is heading the coalition government with BJP in Bihar, mounted a fierce attack on Modi when chief minister Nitish Kumar made veiled but strong criticism of him at the party's national executive meeting last week when the deadline was set.
Rajnath Singh contended that "there is no question of pressure" from JD(U). "These are suggestions by our allies. We will look into all these issues and decide what to do," he said when asked about JD(U)'s strident demand and Shiv Sena's clamour for calling an NDA meeting to thrash the issue out.
Shiv Sena, which does not share good vibes with Modi in view of his perceived proximity to Sena rival Raj Thackeray, has also asked the BJP to declare its candidate.
"BJP has the right to name its PM candidate but it cannot do so on its own steam. This (NDA) is Arjuna's chariot and has many horses (allies). Every horse is important. Or else, there will be a different Mahabharat and the chariot wheel will get stuck," the Shiv Sena said in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna.
The party also asked NDA convener and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav to call an early meeting of the alliance to decide on the PM choice.
Singh refused to share the JD(U) view that Modi is not "secular" and sought to downplay Kumar's attack on Modi last Sunday.
Asked about Kumar's attack, he said "JD(U) is an ally of BJP. Allies have their own thoughts, ideology and programmes. If these were the same (as that of BJP), then they would not be a different party."
Kumar had questioned Modi's secular credentials as well as his model of governance, saying it was not inclusive.
Insisting that Modi is "secular" like every other leader and cadre of BJP, Rajnath Singh said Gujarat has seen development which is "inclusive" and without any "discrimination" under his chief ministership.
He described the war of words between BJP and JD(U) in the last few days as an "unfortunate" episode.
To questions on the possibility of a split in the alliance on Modi issue, Singh said BJP would not like to break the alliance with JD(U) and will hold talks with the ally.
Seeking to justify his remarks that Modi is "secular", the BJP chief said Gujarat has "seen no riots except the unfortunate one of 2002" during his 12-year rule.
"Modi has also said that 2002 riots were unfortunate. We all agree," Singh said.
He went on to add, "If, on the basis of one unfortunate riot, Modi is held guilty, then is Congress not guilty for 1984 anti-Sikh riots? There have been so many riots under Samajwadi Party in UP, is Samajwadi Party not guilty then?"
Claiming that Modi is "not divisive" but "a leader who binds everyone," he said, "There is no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or religion (in Gujarat). He (Modi) thinks of everybody's development."
Insisting that BJP does not indulge in "sectarian politics," he launched an attack on Congress, saying it is "the biggest communal party" of the country.
"During its 54-year rule, Congress has created divides in the society on the basis of caste, creed and religion by infusing terror in the minds of people," he said, adding "BJP does not divide. Its politics is based on 'insaaf' (justice) and 'insaniyat' (humanism)."