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Chavan not with Modi

Shaken by the booing of their Haryana counterpart Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Tuesday, Congress chief ministers are wary of sharing the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in election-bound states, fearing that BJP would use these events to embarrass them by orchestrating protests. 

Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan has decided to skip a function in Nagpur where he was to lay the foundation of Metro with Modi on Thursday. At the same time, Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren has asked the PMO to ensure that he is not put in an embarrassing position when he joins Modi at a function in Ranchi on Thursday. 

Chavan announced his decision to skip the foundation-laying ceremony of Nagpur Metro, pointing to a pattern in the booing of Hooda and his own experience at an earlier event with the PM in Solapur where Modi chose to attack the now-dislodged UPA government.

“In my opinion, the recent incidents in Solapur and Haryana in the presence of Modi had adverse impact on our federal structure. Under such circumstances, I decided not to attend the Nagpur event,” Chavan told reporters. 

The concern of CMs coincide with Congress’s resentment over the Kaithal incident where Hoodda was heckled with Modi by his side. Congress circles feel the protest was organized by the BJP to paint rival CMs as unpopular, and could be part of a saffron strategy in poll-bound states where BJP is on a strong wicket electorally. 

In fact, much before Chavan announced his decision, Congress managers started mounting pressure on the party leadership to direct its CMs to keep an arm’s length from Modi till the elections. A party leader said Sonia Gandhi was apprised of the concern in writing.

 A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Hooda was heckled by BJP supporters while he shared stage with Modi.

Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Haryana are set for assembly polls later this year and most of the PM’s visits are focused on these states. 

BJP, however, dismissed Congress’s decision as a political antic meant to cover up the discontent facing them. “Our government respects all CMs — be it ours or of other parties. When the PM goes somewhere, the CM sits next to him and he (PM) accords all due respect to him. But if the people are angry with the CMs, what can the government do about it,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said. 

“The situation in Maharashtra and Haryana is such that the CMs are not ready to face the public. When public asks questions from them, they demand answers. People in Haryana seem to be angry with Hooda and that is not our fault. Hooda should introspect,” Hussain added. 

His colleague Sudhanshu Trivedi further said, “BJP workers are, of course, expected to exercise restraint but Congress is fooling itself by passing off the protest against Haryana CM as something which was staged by his political opponent. What happened at Kaithal was a spontaneous eruption of public grievance against 10 years of the worst kind of corruption and usurpation of farmers’ land by Hooda government for its masters and favourite businessmen.” 

He added, “Congress would have done itself a service by engaging in self-introspection rather than decide to skip PM’s function and play victim to garner sympathy which is not there.. Those who are in public life should be take adulation and protest in the same stride.” 

Trivedi also said BJP never displayed such synthetic outrage during the years Congress was in power. 

AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed justified the concern expressed by the Jharkhand CM. “There is a political design behind the incidents. PM is visiting Jharkhand on Thursday and CM Soren should be cautious. It’s not only about Congress CMs. All self-respecting CMs of the Opposition should avoid political functions of Modi, which are being held in the name of public functions,” he said. 

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