Jethmalani, Yashwant bat for 'secular' Modi as PM

New Delhi, Jan 29 (IANS) Supporting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, party MPs Yashwant Sinha and Ram Jethmalani Tuesday said Modi was "secular" and the party should convince allies like JD-U of his suitability.

"Modi in my definition of secularism is 100 percent secular and his enemies and detractors have done their best to silence him by disseminating untruth and creating false evidence supporting their false claims. I believe he is impeccably secular," Jethmalani told reporters here.

A day after Sinha openly backed Modi's projection as the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate for 2014, Jethmalani seconded his opinion.

"Narendra bhai is the best prime minister of the country, nothing has happened to change my mind. Yashwant Sinha has supported my view, and I am very happy," said the Rajya Sabha member who has been suspended from the BJP.

The Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the second largest party in the BJP-led National Democratic alliance (NDA), has been against projecting Modi for the top post, as he has been involved in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Asked if the JD-U could walk out over Modi's projection, Jethmalani said: "I don't think that will happen, but if it happens, let it happen."

"Tomorrow if like my friend (JD-U chief) Sharad Yadav, some new gem of purist race turns up and declares he is also an aspirant, there is enough time to evaluate his candidature."

"This is democracy, everybody has the right to proclaim his candidature, but at the present moment I still think Modi is the best and Sharad Yadav has said nothing to the contrary," Jethmalani said.

Sinha said, "The BJP leaders should try to convince the JD-U leaders that Modi is secular and walking out of the alliance is not good".

He said it was he who forged the alliance when JD-U leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was in the Samata Party.

"The alliance has stood the test of time despite some differences," he said.

On the charges against Modi, Sinha said: "The 2002 riots were unfortunate but they have been attached to Modi deliberately."

"But the situation is different in Gujarat. Muslims also voted for Modi in substantial numbers," Sinha told NDTV news channel.

The BJP has officially not made any decision about its contender for the top post so far. Reacting to Sinha's views Monday, party leaders termed these his "personal views" and said a decision would be taken at the "appropriate time".

"They (BJP) should announce the candidate. It is inconvenient for people in a democracy to know after election who their prime minister should be," said Jethmalani.

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