The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll panel halts Modi yatra

Ahmedabad, March 20: Narendra Modi’s Narmada Pujan rath today literally stopped in its tracks some 60 km from the puja spot, after the Election Commission clamped a ban on it.

The Gujarat chief minister had announced the yatra on Tuesday to celebrate the Narmada Control Authority’s green signal to increase the height of the dam. But the Congress put a spanner in his wheel, complaining to the poll panel that it was a “cheap publicity stunt” ahead of the elections.

As Modi’s rath — which took off from Bapunagar last evening — rolled into Dabhoi in Vadodara district today, the Election Commission fiat reached him. It said he could not unfairly take credit for a decision of the river authority and his yatra was to be called off.

Minutes later, Modi complied and without a murmur. Although the Kevadia colony puja site was still 60 km away, he knew the people’s hearts had been won. He had managed to highlight what was a very emotive issue, and promised the people more.

“Now that we have got the permission to raise the height to 110 metre, the day is not far when the height will go up to 138,” he had said at Kapadvanj before the poll panel played spoilsport.

Commission sources today said the Modi regime was wrongly trying to project a decision of the river authority as its own. Neither could it take any credit for the decision nor celebrate it, they said.

Yesterday, Gujarat Congress chief B.K. Gadhvi had lodged a complaint with the commission that the Modi government was flagrantly violating the model code of conduct by taking out a “celebratory” rath yatra.

The Narmada Control Authority had “permitted the increasing of dam height to 110 metre with a condition that there should be no celebration in the name of the dam,” he alleged.

Modi had clearly violated the condition to extract political mileage, he said. Defying the bar, “Modi announced the yatra from Ahmedabad to the dam site in Kevadia, passing through various parts of central Gujarat. Crackers were also burst at the BJP office on March 18 to celebrate.”

The Congress said its view that the yatra violated the conduct code stood vindicated. Gujarat state spokesman I.K. Jadeja said the Congress was “playing spoilsport with the happiness being experienced by the people”.

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