With all their preparations to fete Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi coming a cropper, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers in Maharashtra have lost reason to rejoice.
The state BJP has decided to cancel an event to honour Modi for his fourth consecutive term as chief minister, and the party’s newly elected national president Rajnath Singh, which was supposed to be held on March 17. The decision has come as a blow to the Mumbai BJP unit, which was busy making arrangements for the occasion. “It will not look appropriate to hold such a function when the state is witnessing its worst drought ever,” said a senior leader of the party. But a section within the party is not ready to buy this argument, saying the function was to be a simple affair, without any fanfare.
BJP leader Eknath Khadse, who is leader of Opposition in the state assembly, confirmed the development, stating that it had been postponed due to the prevailing drought situation. “Our critics would have targeted us over the function even if it had been held in a simple manner,” he said. But workers said the city unit of the BJP had decided to honour the CM in a plain fashion. The entire ceremony was planned without any pomp and show unlike the last one at Shivaji Park, said a city unit office bearer. Even the stage was supposed to be very simple.
Not the rift?
A section within the party claimed that differences between former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and deputy leader in Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde were responsible for scrapping of the event. But a close aide of Gadkari’s refused to admit this rationale. “Gadkari himself is yet to be informed of this decision,” he said. Not many within the party are sold on the premise that the programme was cancelled due to factionalism within the party’s state unit.
“The gravity of the drought is severe. It is the genuine feeling behind postponing it. No politics behind it,” said Atul Shah, spokesman of the party. Sources said everything had been worked out. City chief Raj Purohit, who is expecting a second term, had even convinced the Western Railway to cancel the weekly mega block on train service on March 17. The party, sources say, had hired 1,700-odd buses to ferry party workers to the venue, Somaiyya Grounds at Sion.
“The media would have portrayed us in bad light,” said a party leader, adding, “These days, we cannot use mineral water bottles as these are shown to be a part of massive expenditure by TV channels. Even the expenses on flowers and garlands used for felicitation would have been counted. The party doesn’t want to take a risk,” he said.