Bharatiya Janata Party’s ally Janata Dal – United, whose antipathy to Narendra Modi is well-known, is likely to make a strong demand for the early projection of the next prime ministerial candidate of the alliance and emphasise its commitment to secularism ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Though party leaders remain tight-lipped about the political resolution to be adopted at its two-day National Executive on Saturday, there are clear indications that the party will vehemently oppose the projection of the Gujarat chief minister within NDA for the top job.
JD-U President Sharad Yadav evaded a direct reply on whether the party will oppose the projection of Modi. "We had never compromised on the issue of secularism nor will we do now," he said.
He was asked whether the secular credentials of NDA's next prime ministerial candidate will be an important issue to be discussed at the JD-U meet.
On whether the party will discuss the issue of Modi's increased projection in BJP, he said, "There is no bar on any issue. Everything can be discussed. Sky is the limit as far discussing issues is concerned”.
"Our party allows people to raise issues. But how can we talk about the decision before the party's National Council meet," he said.
Yadav's comments are significant as there has been some unease in the JD-U over Modi recently addressing a series of meetings, with a party leader saying it seemed "as if he has been declared the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP".
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who runs a coalition government with the BJP, has been a known critic of Modi. A sizeable section in JD-U believes that parting of ways with the BJP will be unavoidable if Modi is projected as a prime ministerial candidate in the Lok Sabha polls.
"So far, NDA has gone to elections projecting Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. Why should they not do it now," was the refrain of a senior JD-U leader, who did not want to be named.
Yadav, who is also the NDA convener, said that the alliance between BJP and JD-U is working on a common agenda, under which the BJP had to drop its controversial issues like Ram Temple, abrogation of Article 370 and the Uniform Civil Code.
"Our national agenda is secular. It is there for last 17 years. Our issues and their (BJP's) issues are different," he said.
Amid growing speculation on whether his party will remain within the NDA at a time when there is increased focus Modi, Yadav said, "No name has been decided either within the BJP or within the NDA. What is the point in embarrassing somebody or ourselves by taking someone's name regularly?"
Sections in JD-U believe that Modi is not the consensus candidate even within the BJP and there could be a possibility of the Gujarat leader being kept out of the race due to differences on the issue among the allies.
Attacking Modi, JD-U leader Shivanand Tewari has claimed that Modi was "desperate" to become prime minister and that even without the party naming him, "the Gujarat chief minister has already started believing that he is the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP."
Tiwari has also slammed Modi for his comments -- that states like Bihar should adopt the Gujarat model of development -- and asked him to learn from the Bihar model instead.
"We will take stock of the political situation prevailing in the country and related issues at our party's National Executive to be held in New Delhi on April 13-14," Kumar had recently said in Patna, in reply to questions about the future of JD-U's alliance with the BJP.
"We will also apprise NDA of our deliberations and opinion on various political issues," he had said to repeated questions on his stand.