The war of words with key National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner, the Janata Dal (United), has led BJP president Nitin Gadkari to ask all party functionaries and alliance partners to "exercise restraint" while airing views on coalition-related issues.
"The BJP is of the opinion that notwithstanding the divergence of opinion in NDA on the issue of the Presidential election, NDA has performed a historic role and shall continue to do so in order to navigate the country out of its present problems," Mr Gadkari said at a press conference in Nagpur today.
He maintained each constituent of NDA "mutually respects" the stand taken by other coalition partners. "I request all the party functionaries and other friends in NDA to exercise restraint while speaking on NDA-related issues," the BJP President said.
"Though they (alliance partners Shiv Sena and JD-U) are very much a part of NDA, they also maintain their independent status, and the media tried to project some differences within NDA which is unjust...the chapter is closed," Mr Gadkari said.
Amid escalating tensions between the two allies, JD(U) President Sharad Yadav today discussed the issue with Mr Gadkari. Mr Yadav had also issued gag orders on his party leaders after JD(U) 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.
The 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. 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.