Narendra Modi’s PM candidature — the most debated issue in the BJP-led NDA — again exposed the fault lines in the coalition, with the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal indicating support for the Gujarat chief minister on Thursday, and the JD-U sticking to its demand for a secular leader.
The NDA at present has five constituents and is looking for more partners ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Though Modi has not been formally declared its PM candidate, he has emerged as the face of the BJP campaign — despite murmurs of protests within the party circles.
The Sena, the second largest constituent, appeared open in its support, dropping hints that it would like to be convinced by none less than Modi himself. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said in Mumbai: “The BJP should first decide its strategy... If they decide to choose a name, we will decide our stand.”
The Shiromani Akali Dal had earlier pledged its support to whomever the BJP chooses to project as the next PM.
But Sharad Yadav, president of the JD-U, spelt out the party’s stance ahead of a crucial JD-U national meet in Delhi this weekend: “We never compromised on the issue of secularism, nor will we do now.”
Though JD-U leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has so far only pitched for a "secular" person as the PM candidate, he is expected to make the strongest ever statement against Modi during a speech at the party's national executive on Sunday.
A senior JD-U functionary told HT: "Unlike the random observations of our leaders in the past, the meeting would arrive at a firm stand on Modi."
In a frantic move to calm its ally, the BJP came out with a statement on Thursday, reminding the JD-U of its "background of anti-Congress politics and corruption under the Congress rule".
But even while its recognised the JD-U as a very valuable and long-lasting partner, the BJP also tried to project Modi as secular. Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said, "Our party president Rajnath Singh has emphatically stated that Modi is secular and I second that view. In no uncertain terms, I wish to say Modi is secular."