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Modi at meet, all guns blazing
- Gujarat CM blasts Singh’s proposal for 15% funds for minorities

New Delhi, Dec. 19: Narendra Modi stole the show at the chief ministers’ meeting that some said he should not have attended, held forth on what he called “communal budgeting” and said he would speak to the media when he had something to tell the nation.

“Nation” Ś that word would have caught the attention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, shadow Prime Minister L.K. Advani as well as their parties.

When the BJP suddenly announced a day before the Gujarat polls that Advani would be its candidate for Prime Minister whenever general elections were held, Manmohan said the party had acted to pre-empt Modi who, he suggested, was eyeing Delhi.

Today, Modi was not expected at the National Development Council meeting. Chief ministers awaiting an election verdict rarely attend meetings where vital policy decisions are taken.

But not only did the Gujarat chief minister attend, he even tried to set the tone for the meeting by asking party president Rajnath Singh to issue a statement on “communal budgeting” Ś the BJP’s phrase to describe the proposed 15 per cent outlay for minorities.

Rajnath told his party’s chief ministers to oppose any attempt to introduce a special plan component for the minorities. But no BJP chief minister mentioned the subject in their speech, choosing to speak only before the media.

Except Modi. “Such discrimination, amongst the eligible beneficiaries, for flow of funds, based on minority status, will not help the cause of taking the people of India together on the path of development,” he told the meeting.

Modi, who will know on Sunday whether he remains chief minister, accepted the challenge of 11.2 per cent growth rate for the 11th five-year plan handed to Gujarat. He then went on to criticise the plan document, saying its strategy on tribals was flawed.

Trying to get back at the Prime Minister, he said Manmohan had identified Naxalite violence as the biggest internal security threat but had failed to evolve a focused strategy for improving the lot of tribals, whose neglect was the main reason for its growth.

Sources say Modi plans another attack on the Centre tomorrow when the meeting discusses internal security.

The Gujarat Congress had yesterday objected to his participation in the meeting on the ground that he is only a “caretaker chief minister”.

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