Patna, June 19 (IANS) Leaders of Bihar's ruling alliance traded charges Tuesday after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's comments about a "secular" prime ministerial candidate ignited an angry response from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Nitish Kumar said in a published interview that the prime ministerial candidate of the NDA should be declared ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and he or she should be secular and accepted to all.
Although Nitish Kumar did not take any name, his comments were widely seen to be directed at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, with whom the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader does not see eye to eye.
The remarks angered Animal Husbandry Minister and BJP leader Giriraj Singh, who said "it is the people of the country, not a leader" who would decide the credentials of a secular leader.
Without naming Nitish Kumar, Singh, a known supporter of Modi, said some leaders become secular when they don't need the BJP's support but forget their secular credentials when they needed the BJP.
Another BJP legislator, Rameshwar Chourasia, also reacted angrily. "There is no need of a certificate from others. All BJP leaders are secular," he said.
JD-U legislators Devesh Chandra Thakur and Niraj Kumar responded that their party would not accept Modi as National Democratic Alliance's prime ministerial candidate.
Thakur said his party would snap ties with the BJP if it projected a "communal" person as its prime ministerial choice.
In a bid to cool down tempers, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who is also from the BJP, said the prime ministerial candidate would be decided by the NDA and not the BJP.
Modi added that a prime minister should be a liberal ('udar') like former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad plunged into the debate.
He asked Nitish Kumar to explain who was secular in the BJP if Modi was communal.
"If Nitish thinks that L.K. Advani or any other BJP leader is secular, he should explain it to people," he said.