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 Lok Sabha 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 to 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".
"According to me, Narendra Bhai is the most and the best (suited) Prime Minister for this country. Nothing has happened to change my mind... Modi in my definition of secularism is 100 per cent secular," Jethamalani had said last week.
Sinha had said on Monday that announcing Modi's candidature would hugely benefit BJP and increase its seat tally significantly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
With Sinha pitching for Modi as PM nominee, party President Rajnath Singh had said the Gujarat Chief Minister is a popular leader while maintaining that any decision on such an issue will be taken by the BJP Parliamentary Board.
"There are no two opinions about Narendra Modi being a popular leader. In BJP, we don't only have a tradition but a system also that for such a decision, the Central Parliamentary Board of BJP talks and decides on such an issue," Singh had told reporters in Nagpur.
He was reacting to questions on Sinha favouring Modi as the party's Prime Ministerial candidate in 2014 general elections.
C P Thakur, who is a former Bihar BJP chief, today supported the idea that NDA should declare its PM candidate before the elections.
"NDA will gain by declaring PM candidate before the elections. The name should be decided after consulting all coalition partners," Thakur, who served as Union Minister in Vajpayee government, said.
On the choice of Modi, he said the Gujarat Chief Minister has all the qualification for the post. "Writing is on the wall...those who fail to read it will be loser," he said.
On report of religious leaders talking about choice of the PM candidate during Kumbh Mela, Thakur disfavoured it, saying they should stick to religious work and not dabble in politics.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar has said the party will take a decision at the appropriate time.
Apparently having reservations about Modi, NDA ally Shiv Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut has said in Mumbai, "We feel Sushma Swaraj is the suitable candidate for the PM's post."
Asked about Modi's projection as PM candidate, SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal had said last week, "We do not want to put forward our views. We are a small party. So, being a small party, we are very clear. Whoever BJP and NDA decide, we will support them unconditionally."