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Since 1st March, 1999
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Modi rapped for shooting off mouth

New Delhi, Sept. 10: Narendra Modi was today pulled up by BJP boss M. Venkaiah Naidu for the allegedly offensive remarks he made about Muslims during the Gaurav Yatra yesterday.

The Gujarat chief minister was widely quoted by Delhi papers as saying that the minorities who believed in the hum paanch, hamare pacchis (we five, ours twenty-five) norm should be taught a lesson. Modi also termed relief camps housing Muslim riot victims as “child-manufacturing factories” and said: “Those who keep multiplying the population should be taught a lesson.”

Naidu told Modi his statements had caused “anxiety and worry” among the people and sent a “wrong message” across the country about the BJP. It is learnt that deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani spoke to Naidu this morning and asked him to advise the chief minister to be “more restrained”.

BJP sources said various Central officials had received calls from their home states, asking why Modi was not holding his tongue even after being ticked off by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and human resources development minister M.M. Joshi for his comments on chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh.

Naidu convened an informal meeting of his colleagues to discuss the issue. Sources said he called up Modi during the meeting but was promptly told by the chief minister that he had been “misquoted” by the press.

The BJP chief played it safe, telling Modi that restraint and restoration of peace in Gujarat were the needs of the hour. Asked if Naidu was convinced by Modi’s explanation, sources said: “The speech was reported in detail but he denied the remarks attributed to him. The matter ends there.”

The meeting was attended by general secretaries Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Rajnath Singh. Arun Jaitley, who is closest to Modi in Naidu’s team and has consistently defended him, was not present.

Yesterday, Singh — who flagged off the yatra on Sunday — said the Gujarat BJP cadre had not been told to avoid saying anything provocative about political opponents or indulging in activities which would stir tension during the yatra.

Modi is also reported to have scoffed at the Congress for criticising him for diverting Narmada water to the Sabarmati river during the Shravan month. “Then shall I do it during Ramzan'” he asked.

The BJP fears that Modi’s latest remarks might embarrass the Prime Minister during his US visit. Vajpayee is scheduled to interact with Gujarati Muslims domiciled in the US.

Despite the rap on Modi’s knuckles, the BJP is still throwing its weight behind his yatra. For the second leg — slated to hit the roads on Saturday — the party plans to despatch its Dalit leaders, including Central ministers Satyanarain Jatiya and Ashok Pradhan and general secretary Anita Arya.

Modi will tour the Dalit pockets and is expected to play on the sentiment that they are an integral part of the “Hindu mainstream” and must not fall prey to the “machinations of Christian and Muslim proselytisers”.

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