New Delhi: Giving voice to murmurs within BJP, senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha on Monday pitched for Narendra Modi as the party`s Prime Ministerial candidate, claiming it will have a huge electoral benefit but key NDA ally JD(U) was clearly unhappy.
Sinha advised JD(U), which has reservations against Modi because of the 2002 Gujarat riots, not to target the Gujarat Chief Minister and accept BJP`s decision in "good grace" without picking and choosing who is secular and who is not.
"A debate has been taking place for many days now. When I travel, there is a strong demand from common people and workers that Narendra Modi should be declared as the PM candidate as this will benefit the party.
"After careful thought, I have concluded that if BJP declares Modi as its PM candidate, then BJP will benefit hugely in the elections. It will have a big impact on voters. I have no doubt on this," Sinha told reporters here, adding the party could bag "far more seats" than is being estimated at present.
The former External Affairs Minister, who had once claimed to be qualified for the top job, said the decision on the Prime Ministerial candidate has to be taken by the party but this is the sentiment of workers and public.
He said there have been recent surveys which project Modi way ahead of all other contenders for the PM`s post and the time was "ripe" to project him.
Sinha became the first senior BJP leader to openly pitch for declaring Modi as PM candidate although the party and the leaders have been evasive on the issue.
Modi, who held "elaborate" discussions with BJP chief Rajnath Singh here yesterday on the 2014 elections, himself has been parrying the question.
Asked to comment on Sinha`s statement, Rajnath Singh agreed that Modi is a popular leader but said any decision on such an issue will be taken by the BJP Parliamentary Board.
"There are no two opinions about Narendra Modi being a popular leader. In BJP, we don`t only have a tradition but a system also that for such a decision the Central Parliamentary Board of the BJP talks and decides on such an issue," Rajnath Singh told reporters in Nagpur.
Another leader M Venkaiah Naidu apparently was unhappy over Sinha`s statement. "There are people with enough experience who are capable of becomming leaders, to lead the party and lead the nation," he said.
Underlining that a call on the Prime Ministerial candidate will have to be taken by the party, Naidu said "I only appeal to all the people concerned to wait for the decision of the party and also final decision of NDA. To my knowledge, there is no controversy in BJP for Prime Ministership."
Annoyed over attempts to project Modi, JD(U) Chief Sharad Yadav said Sinha`s comments were "uncalled for" and bluntly told BJP to realise that alliances are formed with "great difficulty".
JD-U spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari dismissed Sinha`s demand as his "personal view" and said the party will wait for BJP`s "official stand".
On JD(U) having reservations against Modi`s name, Sinha said if the ally does not support, it will be a "wrong" decision.
"JD(U) is the oldest ally of BJP... And it should remain in the alliance," he said.
However, he took exception to JD(U) targeting Modi, saying "to target one particular person is not fair. Either the entire party is secular or the entire party is communal. Within BJP, you cannot pick and choose. That is a flawed argument."
He went on to add that "within a party, you cannot say XYZ is secular and ABC is communal and we will go with XYZ and not with ABC."
Asked about the possibility of JD(U) quitting NDA if Modi is declared as PM candidate by BJP, Sinha said "if any party goes, a number of parties will come.... JD(U) is absolutely free.
"It is another party, it is an ally. If they take a position, they should take it only after careful consideration," Sinha said about the JD(U).
Sinha maintained he was in favour of JD-U remaining in NDA as he himself has been the architect of the alliance when he was President of the Bihar unit of the party. "Why should a person like me want to push them out?” he said.
On JD-U`s reservations and threats to quit the alliance, Sinha said it has already conceded that BJP is the core of the coalition and BJP should suggest who the Prime Ministerial candidate will be and it should be BJP`s decision.
"If BJP in its wisdom were to project anyone, then as alliance partner JD-U should accept that... It is flawed to say that individual leaders in BJP are either secular or communal. Either the whole party is communal or the whole party is secular. We can`t pick up individuals and say he is secular but he is not secular. That becomes difficult to accept," Sinha said.
JD(U) was not pleased with Sinha`s remarks.
"We used to run alliance earlier also. Now, I have responsibility in NDA and I want to again say that alliances are formed with great difficulty," Yadav said.
"Whatever we had to say on the issue (of who should be NDA`s PM candidate), our leader Nitish Kumar has already conveyed to BJP.... He has also spoken clearly about what kind of a person should be the Prime Ministerial candidate. So, the ball is in BJP`s court," Tiwari told reporters.
Kumar, who has had reservations on sharing the dais with Modi and his campaigning in Bihar, had earlier broadly indicated to BJP that the Gujarat Chief Minister, with his hardline Hindutva image, will not be acceptable to JD(U) as NDA`s Prime Ministerial candidate.
The Bihar Chief Minister had also said publicly that NDA`s candidate for the post should be somebody who is secular and is acceptable across the board.