Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar at NCTC meet
Both are ambitious leaders who have been feted for their achievements as administrators. They are also said to be rivals for that one slot - a future Prime Ministerial candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi have baited each other often, publically, and make no bones about their differences.
Today Nitish Kumar virtually ruled out supporting the BJP strongman for Prime Minister in 2014.
Addressing a gathering of Janata Dal United (JDU) MPs and legislators in in Patna, Mr Kumar reportedly said he will support "a man with a secular image as the Prime Minister." Without naming Mr Modi, the Bihar Chief Minister warned "no one should cross the Lakshman Rekha
(the proverbial line)."
"I am not in the race for prime minister but will support anyone who promises to work for Bihar," he added.
For much part of last year, the friction between the
two CMs was palpable. At the core was Nitish's unwillingness to share
the political stage with Mr Modi. Mr Kumar has carefully cultivated a
secular image despite his party's long-standing association with the
BJP, and he did not want Modi's less than secular image to affect that. The war between partners BJP and Janata Dal United JD (U) on
Narendra Modi reached a flashpoint Mr Modi was not allowed to campaign
The latest war-of-words seems to have been sparked off by Mr Modi's comments. Speaking at a public rally in Rajkot earlier this week, Mr Modi had
reportedly said "that Bihar, at one point of time, was a political and
spiritual leader of the country, but it slipped into socio-economical
backwardness ever since the casteist leadership took centre stage."
Mr Kumar, not a fan of Mr Modi's at the best of times, had retorted that
he does not need any lectures from the Gujarat chief minister, who he
suggested, should evaluate his own impact on his state.
Mr Kumar's alliance partner in the state, the BJP , then went into its usual damage-control mode. The BJP's Sushil Modi, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar,
said that Mr Modi's criticism was aimed at former chief ministers of
Bihar like Lalu Prasad Yadav and the BJP. "I have seen the CD of Modi's
speech and his remarks are not aimed at the NDA government. The Gujarat
Chief Minister made the remarks about caste politics apparently to warn
some BJP leaders against playing out caste politics."