Modi skips BJP national executive, leaders deny rift


New Delhi: Controversy dogged the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) two-day national executive that began here Friday with its star leader Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as well as two other chief ministers keeping away, while the party kept up its attack on the government over the 2G spectrum scam.

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BJP chief spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad faced a volley of uncomfortable questions from media persons 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 major contender in the party for the prime minister’s post in future.

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 portray himself cast 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 added that the Gujarat chief minister had all the capabilites to be prime minister.

“Let me tell you, given a chance he will prove to be one of the best prime ministers,” Punj said.

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 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.

Other notable absentees were former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and former Uttarakhand chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, both of whom were made 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 polls next year.

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 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.

Evidence against former communications minister A. Raja, now lodged in the Tihar Jail, and Chidambaram was the same, he said. “So why is Raja in jail and Chidambaram outside? He should be sent to Tihar Jail.”

The BJP leader said the government was also stopping the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from investigating the role of Chidambaram, who was the finance minister in 2008 when the controversial allocation of 2G spectrum took place.

Questioning the role of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the 2G issue, Prasad said: “Action has been taken against Raja and many others and if more evidence is found, then there will be need to investigate the role of PM in 2G.”

Gadkari, in his inaugural address at the national executive, spoke about efforts being made by the BJP to strengthen itself in Uttar Pradesh which will go to polls next year.

Attacking the Congress on the issue of corruption, Gadkari said the party had “exhausted its ability to offer solutions to the problems before the nation”.

“Congress itself has become a problem and we have to solve it by ensuring its electoral defeat,” he said.

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 failure to contain terror attacks.

He said the Planning Commission affidavit in the Supreme Court defining poverty line cut-off showed that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was insensitive to the deprived sections.

“The UPA believes that those earning more than Rs.32 (urban areas) and Rs.26 per day (rural areas) have become moneyed individuals. The UPA is not only anti-poor but has the arrogance of mocking them once again through the affidavit it has filed in the Supreme Court,” Gadkari said.