As the regional powerhouses began talks to form a non-Congress, non-BJP third front ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP stepped up efforts to keep its alliance partner Janata Dal (U) within the NDA fold.
As the fresh crisis threatened to derail the 17-year-old alliance, the BJP turned to its old guard to do the fire-fighting. Despite the recent power shift within the BJP, party patriarch L K Advani was involved in the trouble-shooting.
Advani spoke to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, JD(U) president Sharad Yadav and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to convince Nitish to stay in the alliance. “Advaniji is the mentor of the party...he has every interest and he is within his rights to talk to anyone,” party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.
On Thursday, Nitish revealed in Patna that Advani, Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi had spoken to him about the recent crisis in the NDA.
In Delhi, BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi met Sharad Yadav at his residence.
According to sources, the BJP leaders were trying to convince Yadav and Nitish that the issue of Prime Ministerial candidate was still not decided, and Narendra Modi has only been made the BJP’s election campaign committee chief. “Our common goal is to ensure Congress’ defeat. So we should stay together,” a BJP leader said. But the Bihar BJP leaders appeared to adopt a belligerent stance. “Can we choose JD(U) president or its other office-bearers? Likewise, no other party has any right to dictate to us who should be given what post within the party,” state president Mangal Pandey said in Patna.
Sharad Yadav said about his meeting with Gadkari: “A number of things had happened and a meeting of our party will take place to form a view on them. We will take all these decisions in our meeting. Talks are happening with the friends and colleagues in BJP. It concerns the issue of alliance. Talks are on.”
But Nitish appeared to be in no hurry to give the BJP any hope. “Advani discussed some issues and said some things. We will discuss them in our meeting. We will take cognisance of these things. We will discuss all issues. Before that, it is not proper for me to say anything. But we are concerned about the developments which have taken place in the last few days,” he said.