'NDA's PM candidate should have secular credentials'
By PTI - NEW DELHI
19th June 2012 10:52 AM
In comments which could spell fresh trouble for BJP-JD(U) alliance, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said NDA's Prime Ministerial candidate should be somebody with "secular credentials", apparently giving a thumbs down to his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi.
Even as differences over the Presidential election continue to simmer between BJP and JD(U), Kumar has made comments which are contradictory to his ally's views. He has hinted that Modi--who is being touted as the first choice of BJP for Prime Minister's post--does not fit the bill.
Differing with the BJP view that the Prime Minister will be chosen after the Lok Sabha elections, Kumar said, "The NDA will have to declare its nominee. The electorate should know who they are voting for and who will lead the country. The NDA should have a leader who can feel for the underdeveloped states like Bihar.
"It should not be someone who can develop developed states, but who has a feel for underdeveloped states," he said in an interview to The Economic Times.
Though Kumar has not named anybody, he was apparently referring to Modi, with whom he does not enjoy a healthy relationship. The two had a war of words recently when Kumar attacked Modi for saying Bihar had lagged behind due to caste politics.
Kumar had then said Modi is like the pot calling the kettle black. "One whose hands are full of communalism does not have the moral right to malign others for casteism," Kumar said.
Stressing on declaring the PM candidate in advance, Kumar said, "This leader should be acceptable to every constituent of the alliance. To me, the leader of the coalition should have secular credentials."
Kumar said that the Prime Ministerial candidate should be someone who has absolute faith in democratic values.
"In a multi-religious and multi-lingual country like ours, the leader should not have rough edges in his personality. An alliance can win the confidence of the people only if the leader is seen as accomodating," he said.
The Bihar Chief Minister said he will air these views to NDA allies when the issue comes up.
The chasm between BJP and JD(U) appears to have grown in the recent weeks. Kumar reportedly does not want the NDA to contest the Presidential election and favours a consensus on UPA's nominee Pranab Mukherjee. Many see this as his attempt to maintain good relations with the Congress as he wants to keep his options open in case of a hung Parliament in 2014.
He, however, denied that he was aiming for Prime Ministership. "I am not in the race for Prime Ministership. I cannot even dream of that high office. The Prime Minister should be from the bigger party.
"We can only play a supporting role. But that depends on who leads the alliance. I have already outlined the qualities required of the leader," he said.
Law Minister Salman Khurshid welcomed Kumar's remarks, saying, "We are a secular country, so our Prime Minister must be secular. If there was any doubt about this in any political organisation, their own leaders coming out now and saying this clearly is a welcome thing."
Interestingly, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi backed Kumar. He maintained that the PM candidate should be one having a liberal image like former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. "He should be acceptable to all sections of the society," he said in Patna.
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