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Rift in BJP widens as Modi skips meet

Gujarat CM's absence from the party's national executive meet raises eyebrows

Controversy dogged the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) two-day national executive that began yesterday 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. 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.


Missing in action: Eyebrows were raised when Gujarat CM Narendra
Modi opted to stay away from the BJP national meet. Meanwhile, party
 president Nitin Gadkari praised Advani and clarified that the yatra was
to clean up politics. pic/AFP


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.

Explanations
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 capabilities 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 LK Advani choosing Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to flag off his anti-corruption 'Jan Chetna Yatra' (national awakening campaign). The yatra begins October 11 from Bihar and will go to 18 states and two union territories.

Absence felt
Other notable absentees were former Karnataka chief minister BS 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.

PC assures security to Advani's yatra
Home Minister P Chidambaram yesterday said he would consider if a request for security is made by for LK Advani's yatra. "Providing security along the route that Advani takes is the responsibility of the state government. But if there is any specific request, we will certainly look into it," said Chidambaram. He was asked if the central government considered providing security to Advani's yatra. "Well, I do not know the route the yatra is going to take and I cannot recollect (receiving) any letter requesting to provide security," he said.

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