Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav has issued gag orders on his party leaders to end the war of words with its ally the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP top leadership too has refused to be drawn into the controversy.
"Statements are being made by various leaders since yesterday. I would like to ask them not to make any comment about any issue without asking me. For example, if it's about Bihar, then leaders should only comment after asking Nitish Kumar," Mr Yadav said today.
Mr Yadav's statement came at a time when the NDA is trying to avoid a coalition breakdown over the differences between BJP and its ally JD(U) with regard to the presidential candidate.
"The support of the JD(U) to UPA Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee is no indication of any rift in the NDA. NDA is united and will remain so," the JD(U) chief told reporters.
The JD(U) chief got into a firefighting mode today after his party's General Secretary Shivanand Tiwari asked the BJP to reconsider its stand to back PA Sangma's presidential bid and made statements defending the UPA's handling of the economy. Mr Tiwari expressed his apprehensions over the BJP's ability to tackle the economic crisis better than the current dispensation. He had said the situation of the Indian economy would have been no different even if BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad had been the country's Finance Minister.
BJP, not impressed with Mr Tiwari's remark, shot back with party spokesperson Tarun Vijay saying, "Why is Shivanand Tiwari's confidence so low that he is advocating the cause of the UPA government by defending its misrule and bad governance."
The JD(U) has said that it will not back PA Sangma for President, even though the BJP has endorsed him as its candidate. The JD(U) MPs and state legislators will vote for Pranab Mukherjee, who is the candidate of the UPA, the ruling coalition at the Centre. This is the first time in 16 years that the BJP and the JD(U), who both belong to the NDA coalition, have taken opposing stands on a national issue. Many believe this is a precursor of a larger divergence that's inevitable for the two parties.
Many see the reported friction between Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, who is the Bihar Chief Minister, as the root cause behind the differences between the NDA allies. (Read: Nitish pro-Pranab because he is anti-Modi?)
Mr Kumar along with his party leaders have declared that Mr Modi is not acceptable as the prime ministerial candidate for 2014. The JD(U) says it cannot accept "a fanatic face" as NDA's candidate. It was ticked off sharply by the BJP's parent body, which said that it does not need lessons on who or what is secular.