Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Monday criticised “media manipulation” of his alleged “rift” with his political mentor, L.K. Advani.

Addressing a public meeting during the Jan Chetna Yatra at Broach, the Chief Minister said a picture, published in a section of newspapers, showing an empty chair between him and Mr. Advani on the dais at a Vapi public meeting, to “justify” reports on their rift, was apparently taken when State BJP president R.C. Faldu got up to make his speech.

Pointing out that it was natural for the party president to preside over a meeting organised by the party, Mr. Modi held the Congress government at the Centre responsible for the media manipulations.

The Centre was “threatening” owners of the print and electronic media to suppress or distort reports on the yatra and the saga of Gujarat's development to create hatred for the BJP and the State government in the minds of the people. “But we have a place in the hearts of the people and any attempt by the Congress to distort our image on the television screens will not be able to stop Gujarat's rapid strides on the path of progress,” said Mr. Modi.

Mr. Modi, who had received and then joined the yatra from Vapi on the Gujarat-Daman border on Sunday morning, however, left for Gandhinagar after paying tributes to Sardar Patel's statue in Gandhinagar. He joined Mr. Advani here later.

Official sources said Mr. Modi had some urgent work in Gandhinagar in connection with his five-day visit to China from Tuesday, hence he left Mr. Advani's cavalcade for the State capital and it had nothing to do with the alleged “rift” between them.

Starting from Surat, where it had halted for the night, the yatra on Monday passed through Ankleshwar, Broach, Vadodara, Karamsad and Anand before it reached Ahmedabad late in the night to a tumultuous welcome.

Addressing the well-attended meetings, Mr Advani agreed with Mr. Modi that “C” in the Congress actually stood for “corruption.” He said the Congress was the fountainhead of corruption, black money and maladministration, and said the BJP and the NDA would continue to raise the black money issue in the winter session of Parliament, until the UPA government conceded the demand to bring back black money stashed away in foreign banks.

Black flag protests

Earlier, several hundred Congress workers were lathicharged and arrested as they attempted to stage black flag demonstrations and tried to prevent Mr. Advani's yatra at Ankleshwar, Broach, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and several other Gujarat towns.

The Congress said it was protesting because Mr. Advani was silent on the “large-scale corruption” indulged in by the Modi administration. “If he [through his yatra] wanted to create public awareness of corruption in high offices, why was he silent on Mr. Modi's corrupt practices,” asked Congress leaders.

Hours before the yatra reached Ahmedabad, more than 100 Congress workers, including an MLA, were lathicharged and later arrested when they squatted on the yatra route, blocking traffic.

On Sunday, about 700 Congress workers were arrested in Vapi, Navsari, Surat and some other places, and released after the yatra left the towns.

The Congress also alleged that the yatra was funded with “black money” and that a BJP worker “insulted” the Iron Man of India.

State Congress president Arjun Modhwadia showed mediapersons part of a video footage, which showed an unknown worker putting up a BJP banner atop Sardar Patel's statue at Karamsad in Anand district, birthplace of India's first Home Minister in Anand district. The worker had placed one leg on a stool and the other on the head of the statue for support.

The statue was later garlanded by Mr. Advani and Mr. Modi.

In another allegation, Mr. Modhwadia and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Shaktisinh Gohil claimed that a noted bootlegger of Daman, who was wanted by the Gujarat police in at least 27 cases, was given the responsibility of organising the yatra in Daman.

The alleged bootlegger was also seen on the dais with Mr. Advani and after the public meeting, the BJP leader spent the night in a posh hotel owned by the wife of another known bootlegger. “Was there no other hotel available in Daman,” asked Mr. Modhwadia.

Mr. Gohil dismissed the local BJP's explanation that the alleged bootlegger, who organised the yatra in the Union Territory, was an elected party member of the Daman district panchayat, and said that merely by his getting elected his “unclean money” did not become white.

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