New Delhi, Sept. 12: Touched to the quick by Narendra Modi’s provocative anti-Muslim statements during the Gaurav Yatra, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called from the US to ask minister of state Vijay Goel to meet the chief minister and tell him to stop being so brazen.
Goel, who is minister of state in the PMO, met Modi in Ahmedabad on Tuesday and conveyed Vajpayee’s message. He was slated to visit Gandhidham in Kutch for an earthquake relief-related programme on September 11. But Vajpayee told the minister to reschedule his trip and meet Modi.
Sources close to the Prime Minister said they would “closely” watch the next leg of the Gaurav Yatra — which resumes on Saturday — to see if the warning has had an impact on Modi.
Goel, who was in Mumbai today, said the chief minister had claimed he was “misquoted”. Asked if he was convinced with Modi’s explanation, the minister said: “If he says so, it must be true.”
Modi’s description of the relief camps housing Muslim riot victims as “baby-manufacturing factories” was brought to Vajpayee’s notice by his aides. The Prime Minister had left for the US the day after the Gaurav Yatra began.
Modi’s kick-off speech — which was an outburst against Sonia Gandhi and her Italian origin — did not perturb Vajpayee. But the chief minister’s improvisation of the family planning slogan “Hum do, hamare do” to “Hum Paanch, Hamare Pachees” disturbed him because the context was the BJP-RSS campaign about how Muslims breed in large numbers wherever they settle.
Though BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu had “advised” Modi to be more restrained after NDA convener and defence minister George Fernandes protested, Vajpayee wanted to send his own emissary to express his displeasure.
A section of the Gujarat BJP close to Modi was reportedly unhappy with the Prime Minister’s “intervention” in state affairs. Its perception was that the chief minister should not be “shackled” with dos and don’ts if the BJP was serious about returning to power.
BJP sources said the pro-Modi lobby was unhappy being reminded about “secularism” because, in its view, the word was anathema to most of Gujarat’s Hindus.
Modi-backers have conveyed to some Central leaders that if the BJP loses Gujarat, it will be because of its “wishy-washy” stand on Hindutva, indirectly seeking to blame Vajpayee.