Truant Modi has BJP squirming at national executive
New Delhi: Controversy dogged the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) two-day national executive that began in New Delhi yesterday with its star leader Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as well as two other former chief ministers keeping away. The party sought to present a brave face by keeping up its attack on the government over the 2G spectrum scam.
BJP chief spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad faced a volley of uncomfortable questions from assembled media over Modi's absence, but he stoutly denied any rift in the party.
Party leaders, however, spoke in different voices on the reasons for the absence of Modi, who is widely perceived to be a leading contender within the party to head a future government.
Modi's three-day ‘sadbhavana' (goodwill) fast had attracted headlines and many saw in it Modi's attempt to cast himself as the candidate for a larger national role.
Prasad's excuse to reporters for Modi's absence was that the Gujarat chief minister was busy with the ongoing Navratri festival.
Party leader Balbir Punj also cited the Navratri festival as the reason for Modi's absence, but thought it important to add: "Let me tell you, given a chance he will prove to be one of the best prime ministers."
Party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said Modi's absence could be because of work.
"Many people are not able to come to the executive at times because of their work," he said, adding, "there are no clashes in the party".
According to party sources, Modi was apparently upset with veteran leader L.K. Advani for choosing Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to flag off his anti-corruption ‘Jan Chetna Yatra' (national awakening campaign). The rally is to be launched on October 11 from Bihar and will traverse 18 states and two union territories.
Other notable absentees were former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and former Uttarakhand chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, both of whom were forced to resign in the wake of corruption charges. While Yeddyurappa was told to resign over graft charges, Nishank was made to step down over alleged corruption in the government ahead of assembly elections next year.
Keeping up the party's attack on the government, meanwhile, Prasad told journalists that it fell on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to answer questions in relation to the 2G spectrum scandal.
Quoting party president Nitin Gadkari's address at the meeting, Prasad accused the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of shielding home minister P. Chidambaram.
"Preference is being given to Chidambaram in spite of the voluminous evidence of his culpability and complicity... [this] only demonstrates the different yardsticks being followed," Prasad said.