Mumbai: With NDA spearhead BJP reluctant to name its prime ministerial candidate and allies speaking in different voices, Shiv Sena on Thursday insisted the issue be decided well in advance before the 2014 general elections to avoid a "last moment confusion".
"There should be no confusion at the last moment. The election for the PM's post is due in April-May next. If at that time we are required to have a PM candidate, what is the harm in starting the discussion now? All should come together and decide the candidate. What is the problem?" Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said.
Thackeray referred to differences that cropped up during the presidential election to underscore the need for consultations to start well ahead of Lok Sabha polls to arrive at a unanimous decision.
"During the last Presidential elections, the NDA couldn't decide on a candidate till the last moment. There was no unanimity within NDA on the issue. At that time, when Sangma's name cropped up, Balasaheb said we won't support him but Pranab Mukherjee as he was the better candidate," he said in the concluding part of an interview to the party mouthpiece, "Saamana" published today.
Bal Thackeray had suggested Sushma Swaraj as the suitable PM candidate for NDA, Uddhav said. "If you have another name, please bring it forward, we will talk. But do that soon. Don't behave as you did during the Presidential poll," he added.
Thackeray had last year said he would back Swaraj as she was the only "deserving and brilliant" person who fitted the bill. "She's a savvy woman and will perform her job as Prime Minister in a forceful and decisive manner," the late Sena chief had said.
Tthe Shiv Sena had thrown its weight behind Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the prime ministerial job.
Sena leader Sanjay Raut, a Rajya Sabha member, had then said, "We have no problem if Modi is declared as the NDA's PM candidate. Modi is definitely a strong leader. There is no doubt about that. Who to make the PM nominee will be NDA's decision, specially that of BJP, which is its largest party."
With Modi posting an emphatic win in Gujarat assembly elections, he has once again emerged as a front runner for the top job with a section in the BJP strongly pitching for him to be named as the party's prime ministerial candidate.
Party heavyweight and former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha had said on Monday that announcing Modi's candidature would hugely benefit the BJP and increase its seat tally significantly in the next Lok Sabha elections.
The chorus for Modi grew louder the next day with party MPs Ram Jethmalani and C P Thakur backing him, with the former even going to the extent of endorsing the Gujarat strongman's "secular" credentials, battered by the 2002 communal riots.
"According to me Narendra bhai is the most and the best prime minister for this country. Nothing has happened to change my mind... Modi in my definition of secularism is 100% secular," Jethamalani had told reporters.
However, the same day, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj received support from the Shiv Sena, with Raut describing her as the "suitable candidate". "We feel Sushma Swaraj is the suitable candidate for the PM's post," he said.
Another key ally JD(U), which has been running a coalition government with BJP in Bihar for over seven years, has made no secret of its reservations about Modi being projected as NDA's prime ministerial candidate.
"Alliances are formed with great difficulty and BJP leader Yashwant Sinhas statement is uncalled for in the context of alliances," JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, who is also convenor of the BJP-led NDA, had said, reflecting the unease in his party over Modi as the alliance's choice for the job.