Participating in his party’s national council meeting in New Delhi on Saturday, Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, opened a can of worms by saying that the country needed an Atal Behari Vajpayee-like thinking to govern the country and his party would decide on its continuance in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance if its views on leadership were ignored. Though he did not name any one, the tone and tenor of his remarks, particularly his reference to Rajdharma (religion of the ruler) — a term used by Vajpayee for guidance of the Gujarat chief minister after 2002 post-Godhra riots — gave an unmistakable message that the barb was targeted against Narendra Modi at a time when the BJP wants the latter to play a dominant role in the run-up to next Lok Sabha elections.
Rising to the bait, the BJP leadership hit back at its key ally, rejecting “unfounded inferences” against the Gujarat Chief Minister, and made it clear that such uncalled for utterances would only result in diluting the NDA’s focus on removing the UPA government. The spate of statements issued by the senior leaders of the two parties as well members of their shouting brigades have given an unfortunate impression that they are putting personalities, and not policies, at the fore front in the coming battle for ballot.
It is performance and not personalities that should dominate debate during the campaign for a national election. By his Modi-bashing Nitish Kumar may be trying to protect his minority vote bank but in the process he is giving the Congress an opportunity to divide the NDA instead of drawing public attention to the fact that NDA governments have done much better than the Congress governments. Nitish must realise that in Bihar he is sharing power with the BJP and any deflection from his anti-Congress plank would only harm his credibility. The BJP and its allies must sit together and offer an alternative national agenda for governance instead of quibbling over the post of the prime minister.