The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naidu, Modi to share stage

New Delhi, Sept. 6: With an eye on security and his secular credentials, Chandrababu Naidu made it clear that Narendra Modi is not welcome in Hyderabad on Tuesday. But a day before, literacy could bring him face to face with his Gujarat counterpart, whose resignation he had demanded after last year’s riots.

Naidu, who has been avoiding Modi like the plague, is being forced to share a platform with him on Monday, on the occasion of the National Literacy Mission Day, thanks to human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi.

Every year, two or three chief ministers are invited to the function. “This year we chose Modi, Naidu and Mayavati, but since the latter has since resigned as Uttar Pradesh chief minister, only Modi and Naidu are attending the function,” said an HRD official.

The ministry has confirmed their participation, but sources close to Naidu and Modi are cagey. A Desam source said he could confirm only on Sunday whether Naidu would attend.

The question being asked is whether it is a mischief or Joshi really wants the two to mend fences. Asked why they were invited together despite Naidu’s well-known aversion to Modi, the ministry official said they followed certain criteria of literacy performance in a state for inviting respective chief ministers.

According to officials, both states have done exceptionally well in spreading literacy. Though much below states like Kerala, Gujarat has notched 69.97 per cent literacy rate. The national average is 65.4 per cent.

While Gujarat has done well overall, Andhra Pradesh did exceedingly well in some districts though overall it ranks below the national average of 61.11 per cent. The function could leave a bad taste in Naidu’s mouth, coming soon after his opposition to Modi’s visit on the plea that he could vitiate the communal atmosphere.

BJP sources said Modi was ready to go after receiving an invitation last month from the BJP-affiliated Bhagyanagar Ganesh Utsav Samiti for a Ganesh procession.

But in an unprecedented move, Hyderabad police commissioner M.V. Krishna Rao said that “if Modi sets his feet on the soil of Hyderabad, he would either be sent back from the airport itself or arrested”.

The Desam source said these comments could not have been made without consulting Naidu. Rao’s comments left the local BJP fuming with state president .Indrasena Reddy demanding an apology.

Minister of state for railways Bandaru Dattatreya also took strong objection to Rao’s “unwarranted” comments, saying “the talk of Modi’s visit posing a threat to communal peace is baseless. He (Modi) is holding a constitutional post”. But the tough talking has had its desired effect. The Andhra police chief said his counterpart in Gujarat has said Modi has no plans of visiting Hyderabad in the near future.

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