New Delhi: BJP president Rajnath Singh has gagged his party on the candidate-for-PM debate, but ally Shiv Sena would like to talk about it. Now.
The BJP's oldest partner has said the National Democratic Alliance or NDA must decide soon on who its face for the 2014 general elections will be. In an interview to the party mouthpiece 'Saamna', Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray called for an NDA meeting and said, "We must decide on the PM candidate now. During the presidential elections, since the NDA couldn't decide on a candidate, we became the laughing stock. Let us not repeat the same mistakes."
The BJP-led NDA had backed the candidacy of PA Sangma against the UPA's Pranab Mukherjee in last year's presidential elections. Mr Sangma was a member of the NCP, a Congress ally and broke away from his party to contest the elections. He lost by a huge margin.
This week, senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha put the cat among the pigeons when he suggested that the party declare that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will be its candidate for PM in the 2014 elections. Mr Sinha argued that the rank and file of the party wanted to see Mr Modi in that role and contended that making an announcement now would boost the BJP's chances tremendously in the Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP has already indicated that Mr Modi will play a starring role in the run-up to 2014; but for now, sources say, it is ready to cast him only as the head of the party's campaign committee. For one, there are other aspirants to the top role. And for another, Mr Modi is not acceptable as the face of the NDA to allies like the Janata Dal (United), which said that statements like Mr Sinha's could threaten its 15-year-old partnership with the BJP.
All allies say they agree that the NDA's candidate for PM will be a leader of the BJP, the largest party in the NDA; but they differ on who that should be. The Shiv Sena has said that it would prefer Sushma Swaraj, who is the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, though it is not against the candidacy of Mr Modi. The Akali Dal said on Wednesday that Mr Modi is the right man for the job.
Soon after Mr Sinha's calibrated statement came another BJP leader Ram Jethmalani's demand that Mr Modi be named as the party's candidate for PM now, forcing Rajnath Singh to ask party to work together to strengthen the party and be careful with what they say in a public forum." Leaders should maintain good speech and conduct...they should have patience," he added.
Mr Singh took over as BJP president last week.