M A I N   N E W S

RSS chief backs Modi as PM, takes on Nitish Kumar
Anita Katyal/TNS

New Delhi, June 20
The already tenuous relationship between NDA partners Janata Dal(U) and the BJP has come under fresh strain. JD(U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar created a flutter yesterday when he took aim at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, saying the NDA should project a secular Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 General Elections.

Today, BJP's parent body -- the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) -- responded by speaking out in favour of the Gujarat strongman in a bid to put an end to this debate. Addressing a closed door meeting of RSS volunteers, party chief Mohan Bhagwat took on Nitish Kumar.

Stating that the country should have a Prime Minister who believes in Hindutva, he said, "To keep alive the Hindutva ideology, the Hindu samaaj should come together. And the country should have a Prime Minister who believes in that ideology."

Taking a cue from the position articulated by the Sangh, the BJP followed by hitting out at Nitish Kumar. "We want to make it clear we have not given the authority to anyone to give certificates of secularism to individuals with us within the BJP," party leader Balbir Punj said today.

However, there was no stopping the war of words. JD(U) spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari retaliated by warning the BJP that their alliance would be seriously endangered if it did not desist from projecting Modi as the NDA's Prime Ministerial candidate. "The NDA cannot come to power with a fanatic face," he declared, adding there could be no compromise on secularism.

Nitish Kumar and Modi have never been on cordial terms. Wary of Modi's "communal taint", Nitish Kumar has always kept him at arm's length and even told the BJP that the Gujarat strongman was not welcome to campaign in Bihar during the Assembly polls.

However, the political jostling between the two picked up after last month's BJP national executive meeting in Mumbai that raised expectations about Modi playing a bigger national role. This is clearly not to the liking of Nitish Kumar, who also nurses Prime Ministerial ambitions.

"Like Modi, Nitish also wants to acquire a national image. He believes that taking an anti-Modi stand gives him a national image," remarked a senior BJP leader.

BJP insiders said that Nitish Kumar was using every opportunity to hit out at them. The debate over the PM candidate for the 2014 elections has surfaced at a time when the JD(U) is not in agreement with the BJP over opposing UPA's Presidential candidate, Pranab Mukherjee.





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