Donít discuss PM candidate, Rajnath warns party leaders

Days after he advised party leaders to exercise "restraint" and "patience", BJP president Rajnath Singh on Monday warned that there "should be no statement from them on who will be the candidate for the prime minister's post".

"If any question is asked by the media, then all leaders should say that a final decision on the issue will be taken by the central parliamentary board," said Singh. "I am making this appeal as our leaders usually behave within the prescribed limits and such comments hurt everybody. I am not going to make this appeal again," he added.

In a similar warning last week, he had urged party leaders to focus on strengthening the party for the Assembly elections due this year.

Singh's warning comes in the backdrop of senior party leaders like Yashwant Sinha and C P Thakur publicly suggesting that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should be declared the BJP's prime ministerial candidate. Suspended party MP Ram Jethmalani also made a similar pitch.

Thakur, in fact, continued to back Modi. "By declaring him (Modi) as the PM the candidate, BJP will certainly gain because of many factors... There is a feeling among the people that he should be the candidate," he said, adding that Singh has not issued any gag order on party leaders.

In Patna, Shatrughan Sinha also supported Yashwant Sinha's suggestion on projecting Modi as the PM candidate. "Yashwant Sinhaji is a senior and an experienced leader. He never talks light. He speaks only after giving deep thought on an issue, I stand with him on what he has said," he said.

Party sources sought to stress that informal discussions between senior leaders came to the conclusion that such utterances by party leaders creating an untimely and unnecessary debate that may even be counter-productive.

Ally JD(U) has already indicated its unease over the clamour within the BJP to pitch Modi as the PM candidate, without consulting the NDA partners. The Shiv Sena has made public its support for Sushma Swaraj, putting the BJP in a tight spot. The BJP is trying to avoid a confrontation within the alliance over this issue.

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