A flip-flop by a Bharatiya Janata Party leader that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will campaign in the Bihar assembly elections on Monday set off fresh strains in the party's ties with Janata Dal-United, which threatened to review the alliance between the two parties.
With his statement creating flutters, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who is in-charge of central programmes and campaigns committee of the BJP, immediately retracted saying he had not made any such statement.
"I have seen the television reports run on various channels about campaign by Modi. These are baseless," Naqvi told rediff.com in an informal chat.
"All stalwart leaders of the party will be part of the joint campaign for the Bihar assembly polls. Modi is one of our stalwart leaders. Definitely he will be part of the campaign," Naqvi, also party vice president, had said in the party's official briefing.
He later said no decision has been taken on who would be the leaders to campaign in the Bihar polls.
"It is premature. The final decision (on campaigners) will be taken after consultations with leaders at the state and national level," he said.
This immediately drew the ire of a prominent JD-U leader Shivanand Tiwari, who said that he would request the leadership to reconsider the alliance with the BJP.
"I will request the leadership to reconsider the alliance with the BJP and contest the elections on our own in the wake of the statements emanating from that party about the Gujarat chief minister," Tiwari, who is a close confidant of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the national spokesperson of the party, told PTI.
"The BJP top brass knows that we do not want Modi's participation in the election campaign in Bihar and we had got a good result in Lok Sabha election minus the Gujarat CM," he said adding that the BJP could spring a surprise by suddenly bringing Modi into the campaign field and therefore the party needed to reconsider its strategy.
JD-U chief Sharad Yadav, however, dismissed the reports about Modi's campaigning as 'baseless.'
"Naqvi has met me in the morning and discussed about the party's campaigners in Bihar. The names he told included that of BJP president Nitin Gadkari, L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and others. He did not name any CM or any leader from states," Yadav, who is also the NDA convenor told PTI.
"That is why the news on this issue is baseless and there is no fact in it," he said.
While BJP president Nitin Gadkari steered clear of the issue saying it is for party spokespersons to respond, party leader Prakash Javdekar said 'our alliance is firm' when asked about Naqvi's flipflops and JD-U's reaction to it.
However, Naqvi also denied that the party top brass was upset with him for issuing a controversial statement which may force a show down between the two allies in poll-bound Bihar.
"I do not know why this campaign is being carried against me. The party top brass did not give me the impression that they were upset with him," he said.
Meanwhile Congress attacked both BJP and JD-U over the issue saying it was an 'unnatural alliance' right from the day one, which has manifested itself in various ways.
With inputs from PTI