Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said that the BJP, his partner, must reveal its prime ministerial candidate before the 2014 general elections. Mr Kumar who runs his government in Bihar in alliance with the BJP, is widely seen as a potential contender for prime minister on behalf of the NDA, the coalition that is led by the BJP.
In an interview to The Economic Times, the chief minister has said that voters must know who they are selecting in the general election. So the NDA must select its candidate for PM before and not after voting. He said he is not in the running, telling the paper, “I am not in the race for PM. I cannot even dream of that high office. The prime minister should be from the bigger party. We can only play a supporting role.”
He also says the NDA should have a leader who understands the needs of under-developed places like Bihar. He stressed that it’s essential that the candidate have secular credentials.
With those assertions, he has taken direct target at Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who nurses prime ministerial ambitions. Mr Modi at a rally recently targeted politicians in Bihar for indulging in caste politics, which had contributed to the backwardness of Bihar. Mr Kumar retorted that he did not need sermons. The two men have an uneasy equation despite being senior leaders in their coalition. Mr Kumar has refused to let Mr Modi campaign in Bihar in the last general and state elections. He was concerned that Mr Modi, tainted by communal riots in his home state in 2002, would dent his image as a secular leader favoured by Bihar’s Muslim voters.
When asked if Bihar remains off-limits to Mr Modi, he said to The Economic Times that the state unit of the BJP has capable leaders who can campaign locally. He also said that he has a cordial relationship with the Bihar unit of the BJP, but “if someone is bent on spoiling this relationship, I cannot help it.”
Mr Kumar is also opposed to the BJP’s attempts to put up a candidate for President of India against Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The BJP was hoping that former president APJ Abdul Kalam would run for a second term. He declined yesterday. The party is now considering backing former Speaker PA Sangma. Mr Kumar has stressed that the President should be elected by consensus, and has praised Mr Mukherjee.