The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi chill sends Naidu scurrying

New Delhi, Dec. 21: The man who always got a red-carpet welcome in Delhi from the BJP top brass today left with a bitter taste in his mouth after both the Prime Minister and his deputy refused to meet him.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu had arrived here last night to attend the National Development Council meeting and sought appointments with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani. But both declined to grant him audience because of “heavy schedule”. Naidu left for Hyderabad.

This is the first time that even Advani has refused to indulge the Telugu Desam Party boss.

The contrast with the days when the much “pampered” Naidu arrived with a retinue of officials and was ushered into the Prime Minister’s presence could not have been starker. More so in the aftermath of the BJP’s thumping victory in Gujarat and with two chief ministers — Jayalalithaa and Mayavati — getting closer to the party.

On Thursday night, the Prime Minister had hosted a customary session-end dinner for MPs of the National Democratic Alliance at his residence. But unlike other years, the Desam MPs did not get the usual welcome.

Sources said that during earlier occasions, a senior BJP leader would introduce each MP to Vajpayee. This time, Desam parliamentary party leader K. Yerran Naidu, the Andhra chief minister’s pointman in Delhi, himself walked up to greet the Prime Minister.

While Naidu had demanded Narendra Modi’s removal after the Gujarat riots, Mayavati campaigned for Modi and Jayalalithaa sent him a congratulatory message on his victory despite a “hostile media” and a “hostile Election Commission”.

Jayalalithaa will also attend Modi’s swearing-in tomorrow, while Naidu has decided to stay away. Asked whether he would go to Gandhinagar tomorrow for the swearing-in, Naidu said: “I am going to Hyderabad”.

Sources said Yerran Naidu had tried to fix an appointment for his party chief with Advani. But the deputy Prime Minister’s private secretary did not oblige, saying Advani would have to leave his residence at sharp 8.30 this morning. They said Naidu’s aides even conveyed to the deputy Prime Minister’s office that the Desam boss was ready to meet Advani at 6 am and for just 10 minutes.

A request for sessions with the Centre’s top two on the sidelines of development council meeting was also not granted.

Naidu played down the chill. Asked why Vajpayee did not grant him an appointment, he said the Prime Minister would reach Hyderabad tomorrow to attend the closing ceremony of the national games and could discuss with him any issue there. “He was busy and I was also busy,” he said.

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