Modi’s absence, talk of PM candidate, cloud BJP meet (Roundup)September 30th, 2011 - 11:39 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Sep 30 (IANS) Narendra Modi as a prime ministerial candidate? The issue saw differences crop up in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at its two-day national executive meeting here Friday as the Gujarat chief minister kept away from the meet, as did two former chief ministers.
The Congress hit out at the BJP’s criticism of it over the 2G scam, saying the BJP should first sort out the issue of its prime ministerial candidate before commenting on UPA ministers.
BJP chief spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad faced a volley of uncomfortable questions from mediapersons over Modi’s absence, but stoutly denied any rift in the party.
The question of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in the next general elections, however, kept cropping up in media interactions of party leaders in the wake of Modi’s absence.
Prasad’s excuse to reporters was that the Gujarat chief minister was busy with the ongoing Navratri festival.
Party leaders spoke in different voices on the reasons for the absence of Modi and appeared divided about his potential as a prime ministerial candidate.
Party MP Balbir Punj, who is party incharge of Gujarat, was categorical about Modi’s capabilities as a future prime minister.
“Let me tell you, given a chance he will prove to be one of the best prime ministers,” Punj told reporters.
However, party leader Vinay Katiyar said Modi was doing good work in Gujarat and there was more work to be done in the state to improve the situation.
Katiyar, who has been associated with Bajrang Dal, said the party will think about a further role for Modi after his work in Gujarat.
Katiyar’s remarks are being interpreted in party circles as view of those who are opposed to Modi’s projection as party’s candidate for the top job in 2014 polls.
Party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said Modi’s absence could be because of work.
Modi’s three-day ’sadbhavana’ fast for peace and harmony earlier this month had attracted headlines and many saw in it Modi’s attempt to cast himself for a larger national role.
According to BJP sources, Modi is apparently upset with veteran leader L.K. Advani choosing Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to flag off his anti-corruption ‘Jan Chetna Yatra’ (national awakening campaign). The ‘yatra’ begins Oct 11 from Bihar and will go to 18 states and two union territories.
The party also found itself fielding questions over the arrest of IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt by the Modi government Friday. Bhatt has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging Modi’s complicity in the 2002 riots.
Other notable absentees from the BJP meet, which ends Saturday, were former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and former Uttarakhand chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, both of whom were made to resign in the wake of corruption charges.
Keeping up its attack on the government, Prasad told media persons that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh needs 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 who was finance minister in 2008 when the controversial allocation of 2G spectrum took place.
Evidence against former communications minister A. Raja, now lodged in the Tihar Jail, and Chidambaram was the same, Prasad said. “So why is Raja in jail and Chidambaram outside? He should be sent to Tihar Jail.”
Prasad termed as “comical” Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee and Chidambaram denying any rift between them.
Gadkari, in his inaugural address at the national executive, attacked the Congress on the issue of corruption.
Referring to Advani’s ‘Jan Chetna Yatra’, Gadkari said the veteran party leader had the “moral authority to lead us in our struggle for good governance and clean politics”.
Gadkari also attacked the Congress over the Commonwealth Games scam, cash-for-votes scandal and Planning Commission affidavit in the Supreme Court defining poverty line cut-off.
In his speech, party leader Arun Jaitley said the UPA had been a failure on the economic front.
“There is crony capitalism, corruption and the increasing tolerance for the same within the UPA. The economist prime minister appears to be helpless,” Jaitley said.
Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury, addressing a press conference, termed the BJP’s criticism as a “cheap diversionary tactic”.
“We won’t listen to whatever BJP says. It is cheap diversionary tactics of a politically bankrupt party and they should put their house in order. They should first sort out the issue of the party’s prime ministerial candidate and then comment on our ministers,” said Renuka Chowdhury.
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