Modi to skip BJP national executive committee meeting

The ‘Jan Chetna Yatra' proposed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani is not for projecting himself as prime ministerial candidate, BJP president Nitin Gadkari said here on Thursday. He also said Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would not be attending the party's two-day national executive committee meeting beginning here on Friday.

He addressed a press conference here to give details of Mr. Advani's yatra, that would be flagged off from Jayaprakash Narayan's birthplace in Bihar on October 11. It will end in Delhi on November 20.It would raise awareness on the twin issues of clean politics and good governance, Mr. Gadkari said.

“It was not his [Mr.Advani's] aim to project himself as a prime ministerial candidate of the party and he had indicated this himself when he said after meeting Mohan Bhagwat [the RSS chief] in Nagpur that the RSS, the Jan Sangh and the BJP had given him much more than any prime ministerial position could.”

When questions were repeatedly put to him on this subject, Mr. Gadkari said: “You should have understood what Mr. Advani had said. He gave the same message you are now expecting from me … this ‘yatra' is not for projecting him as a prime ministerial candidate.”

Although with this Mr. Gadkari put a lid on this controversy in the party, Mr. Modi's decision not to attend the national executive committee meeting is threatening to open another battle. Mr. Modi has apparently let it be known that during the ‘navratras' — the nine days preceding Dussehra — he does not travel and will, therefore, not attend the meeting.

However, informed party sources indicated that Mr. Modi is annoyed for two reasons — one, the ‘yatra' is being flagged off by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has on more than occasion publicly articulated his dislike for Mr. Modi and prevented him from campaigning in the State for the last several elections; and two, recently Mr. Gadkari has re-inducted Sanjay Joshi for active party work in Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Modi and Mr. Joshi have a long history of mutual animosity, going back to at least a decade.

General secretary Ananth Kumar will be Mr. Advani's ‘sarathi' (charioteer) during his 40-day long journey, that will touch 18 States and three Union Territories.

The ‘yatra' will apparently not touch Somnath or Ayodhya, the starting and finishing points of the Ram Rath Yatra of 1990, party sources said. The details were still being worked out. In several cities touched by the ‘yatra,' including Patna and Delhi, the starting and finishing points, the party is planning to hold large public rallies.

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