New Delhi, Feb 4: BJP appears to have come under pressure from Sangh Parivar on the choice of Narendra Modi as its next prime ministerial candidate, with VHP demanding announcement of the Gujarat chief minister's name.
However, NDA allies like JD-U have indicated that his name is not acceptable to them.
After a meeting with top RSS and BJP leaders last week, VHP leader Ashok Singhal today openly said Modi should be declared the PM candidate by the party.
"If people themselves are demanding that Modi should be made the PM candidate then BJP will also have to think about it. Such a thing is happening for the first time. After all, the BJP President himself has said that Modi at present is their most popular leader," Singhal said.
There are reports that VHP and some Hindu religious groups close to the Sangh Parivar may discuss Modi's candidature at a conclave at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad on February 5-6.
BJP President Rajnath Singh's proposed visit to the Kumbh Mela on February 6 has added grist to the rumour mills.
Singh, however, maintained that he is not aware of any such development and insisted he is going to Allahabad only to take a holy dip.
Modi may visit the Kumbh but no programme has been finalised yet, sources said.
While BJP sources denied reports that the party may announce Modi as PM candidate very soon, rumours have led ally JD(U) to react strongly to it.
"Who will be the Prime Ministerial candidate or under whose leadership will a political party contest is decided by political parties. I can't understand how such a decision is being taken by the sadhus and religious Akharas. Where are we taking our politics to? If religious leaders will decide this then it shows complete bankruptcy," JD(U) spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari said.
BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi reacted sharply to this, saying building coalitions is a very difficult task but breaking them is easy.
"We do not believe in breaking coalitions but in building them. The NDA alliance will not only emerge stronger but its strength will also increase. As to who will be the PM candidate, the party will decide and announce at the appropriate time," Naqvi said.
Congress ridiculed BJP and the Sangh Parivar for the confusion on the issue.
"BJP and its allies are fighting for something they are not going to get. It is a useless exercise. Why are they doing it? There is no possibility of this happening in 2014," Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said.
BJP Secretary Balbir Punj hit back at Congress saying the people of the country will decide as to who should become the Prime Minister and sadhus and religious figures constitute an important component of the society.
Nitish Kumar wants BJP to name PM nominee, later denies saying so
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was today quoted as having said that BJP should declare its prime ministerial candidate in advance of next year's LokSabha polls, but he later denied having said so.
A leading Hindi daily 'Dainik Bhaskar' quoted Kumar as having said, "The general elections will be fought the same way like the way Atal Bihari Vajpayee's name was put forward ahead of the polls.
"BJP will have to declare its candidate. The party is yet declare its name officially," Kumar, who is a key leader of JD(U), a partner of BJP-led NDA, reportedly said.
After the "interview" was published, a statement issued by the CM's Secretariat said, "The chief minister did not give any interview to Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar."
It referred to a private channel quoting the report in the Hindi daily.
This is the second occasion that the chief minister has issued a denial on an interview. On August 16, last year, he had denied having given any interview to a magazine saying he will break his alliance with BJP if Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is made its PM candidate in the 2014 polls.
"I never gave any interview to the magazine which has been quoted in the news," Kumar had said, referring to a reported interview in The Week magazine which had later pulled it out of its website.
Meanwhile, Bihar JD(U) President Bashishtha Narayan Singh today said declaring name of the prime ministerial nominee would benefit NDA.
"Declaration of name of V P Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee as PM candidate had helped in the elections... Declaring PM candidate after consulting all partners before polls will benefit the NDA in the elections," Singh, an MP, told PTI.
Voices within BJP pitching for Modi as the party's PM candidate have grown louder with three party MPs - Yashwant Sinha, Ram Jethmalani and C P Thakur - backing him but discomfort among NDA allies has been visible with Shiv Sena batting for Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj for the top post.
After Sinha last week said Modi should be declared the PM candidate, eminent lawyer and the party's Rajya Sabha member Jethmalani has said Modi is the best candidate and that he is "impeccably secular".