The Janata Dal (United) declared on Monday that it would take on Narendra Modi once again in the Gujarat polls, adding that it was open to an alliance with the BJP in any state, barring Gujarat.
“BJP is the larger party in the alliance. We will go for an alliance with the BJP wherever it wants us, barring Gujarat,” Sharad Yadav told reporters.
The JD (U) considers opposition to Modi as a key strategy in its bid to endear itself to the Bihar Muslims and also to mark itself out as the “secular” party within the BJP-led NDA.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar did not, however, spell out whether he would campaign in Gujarat: “I have a busy schedule in the coming few months. I am undertaking the adhikar yatra this month and plan to go to Pakistan in November. I will be going on sewa yatra in December,” he told reporters in Patna.
The developments come a day after another BJP ally and Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray supported Sushma Swaraj for the prime ministerial post.
Sena leader Sanjay Raut told HT on Monday that the party would field its own candidates in the Gujarat elections if the BJP did not agree to a seat-sharing arrangement with it there.
He, however, said the Sena would prefer an electoral arrangement so as not to splinter the Hindutva vote.
While these parties are unlikely to harm Modi in Gujarat — the JD (U) in fact can just add another player to the anti-Modi brigade — the developments have a larger national bearing. After JD (U)’s rejection of Modi for the PM’s post, Sena too has indicated he is not its candidate of preference. It means barring Shiromani Akali Dal, Modi hasn’t found favour with two of BJP’s three allies.
The developments also signal that the BJP’s allies are getting assertive and claiming the right to decide the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
This is bound to trouble the saffron party, which wants to be seen as a strong, assertive party against a “weak, directionless” government.
However, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said the NDA was united and would win the next Lok Sabha polls.