Says JD(U) "was in favour of the old arrangement"

The controversy between the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party on election campaigning in Bihar by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi surfaced again on Thursday, with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar saying here that he preferred the “old arrangement” under which Bihar is out-of-bounds for Mr. Modi.

Mr. Kumar clarified that while it was for the BJP to decide who should campaign in the Assembly elections, the JD(U) “was in favour of the old arrangement.”

Mr. Modi was asked not to campaign in the State in the last Assembly elections, as the JD(U) feared that it would lead to Muslim voters deserting it.

Communal sensitivities

Mr. Kumar made known his aversion to Mr. Modi's campaign in the State during the BJP's Patna executive about three months ago. He objected to hoardings put up by Mr. Modi's fans showing him (Mr. Kumar) clasping the hands of their leader ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha election and cancelled a dinner invitation to the BJP leaders, fearing it would mean hosting Mr. Modi.

The BJP has gone on record saying it alone has the prerogative to decide which of its leaders will campaign in Bihar. However, privately, many party leaders, especially those from Bihar, said the party would keep Mr. Modi out of the campaign.

Poll preparations

Mr. Kumar was here to consult with JD(U) president Sharad Yadav preparations for the elections. It has been decided that the JD(U) and the BJP will have separate manifestoes but would draw up a common programme for governance if the alliance were to come back to power.

The seat-sharing arrangement is expected to be completed by this month-end. In about 11 to 12 seats,decision is yet to be taken on which partner would contest. In the last election, the parties failed to arrive at an arrangement in two seats where there were “friendly fights.”