BJP reaches out to JD-U to prevent snap

New Delhi/Patna, June 13 (IANS) Frantic efforts continued through Thursday to save the NDA from rupture as BJP leaders met with the leadership of the JD-U, the alliance's second largest component, to clear the latter's misgivings over Narendra Modi leading the 2014 Lok Sabha poll campaign.

The move came about even as JD-U leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said his party was in talks with his counterparts in West Bengal and Odisha on forming a federal front of regional parties.

With some Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leaders expressing their reservations about Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked them to follow the "coalition dharma" and not make derogatory comments about the Gujarat chief minister.

Nitin Gadkari, who is a former president of BJP, and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a party vice-president and the BJP's Muslim face, met JD-U president Sharad Yadav at his residence in New Delhi for over an hour as part of BJP's efforts to prevent snapping of ties between the two parties.

BJP sources said after the meeting that the "situation was crucial" and efforts were being made to keep the alliance intact.

The meeting came a day after BJP patriarch L.K. Advani called up Yadav and Nitish Kumar. BJP president Rajnath Singh and party leader Murli Manohar Joshi had also telephoned Nitish Kumar.

Yadav told reporters that his party will take a decision on continuing in the alliance in the next few days "as a number of things had happened".

He said that "NDA (National Democratic Alliance) exists right now" and efforts were being made to rectify the situation that had taken a bad shape.

Asked about Advani's position following his resignation from key party posts and his subsequent decision to relent, Yadav said JD-U had the same respect for him.

JD-U leaders have talked about likely snapping of ties with the BJP following elevation of Modi as chief of party's campaign committee for Lok Sabha polls. Both BJP and JD-U are partners in NDA and run a coalition government in Bihar.

JD-U is opposed to projection of Modi as prime ministerial candidate of National Democratic Alliance as he is seen as anti-Muslim and the party's association with him could alienate Muslim voters in Bihar. Muslims constitute about 16.5 percent of Bihar's population.

JD-U leader Shivanand Tiwari had said Wednesday that naming Modi as the chief of the BJP's chief of campaign for the 2014 elections was an indirect elevation of him as a prime ministerial candidate.

Nitish Kumar told reporters in Patna Thursday that his party was in discussions with his West Bengal and Odisha counterparts, Mamta Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, on the formation of a Federal Front.

"Yes, we discussed the issue. But the matter is still in early stages, and it is not proper to make guesses about the new formation now," he said.

Nitish Kumar recalled that he had advocated unity among the eastern states for the resolution of their common problems of backwardness and for better development in the region.

The JD-U leader said his party would closely watch developments in BJP and will decide on alliance after deliberations with party leaders.

In Hyderabad, BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu asked JD-U leaders not to make derogatory remarks against Modi and asked them to follow coalition dharma.

"To some friends in JD-U who are making derogatory remarks against Shri Narendra Modi, please don't do it. Neither will it help you nor the country. You will only be making our opponents happy. Please follow the coalition dharma," Naidu told reporters.

Naqvi told reporters in the capital that was difficult to form a coalition but easy to break it.

"The coalition should remain strong. It should not crack. BJP has always tried for this," he said.

With talk of split in the air, BJP leaders in Jharkhand said that the party will benefit from a break with JD-U.

Jharkhand BJP spokesperson Pradeep Sinha said JD-U could win only two of 18 seats given to it by the BJP in 2009 assembly polls.

He said the BJP cannot "tolerate interference" in its internal issues.

"Narendra Modi is our respected leader and we cannot bear unparliamentarily comment on our leader," he said.

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