?Good boy? Modi is bad news to Cong

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By OUR BUREAU in Delhi
  • Published 21.03.05

New Delhi, March 21: A delighted BJP has pounced on a ?good boy? certificate it claims Manmohan Singh has bestowed on Narendra Modi, much to the discomfiture of the Congress.

The BJP has picked out one sentence from the statement the Prime Minister made in the Rajya Sabha on Saturday while appealing to the US to reconsider its decision to deny visa to the Gujarat chief minister.

?Mr Chairman, Sir, the American government has also been clearly informed that while we respect their sovereign right to grant or refuse visas to any person, we do not believe that it is appropriate to use allegations or anything less than (a) due process to make a subjective judgement to question a constitutional authority in India.?

BJP sources feel that this sentence has gifted Modi the ?legitimacy? he lacked. ?The operative phrases are in the latter half of the sentence. The Prime Minster has made it clear that nothing has been proved against Modi,? one of the sources said.

They said this ?certificate? was important for two reasons: it came from the Prime Minister of the country in the form of a statement made in the Rajya Sabha and was, therefore, forever ?enshrined? in parliamentary records, and second, he happened to be from the Congress, which had used the Gujarat violence and Modi?s alleged complicity as a major election plank in 2004.

?With this statement, in a sense, Modi?s so-called sins have been washed away,? claimed a BJP functionary who did not wish to be quoted.

But the Congress ridiculed the interpretation, saying no political meaning should be read into the Prime Minister?s stand on the US visa denial.

?As the head of the government, the Prime Minister addressed himself to the limited question of refusal of visa to a person who holds the constitutional office of chief minister. That does not mean that the Prime Minister has given a clean chit or defended Modi,? Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said.

Asked whether it was necessary for the Prime Minister to mention that Modi was only an accused, Sharma said this was a ?statement of fact?.

If Modi had been chargesheeted or convicted, he would not have been holding the office. This legal distinction needed to have been made while considering the Gujarat chief minister?s visa application, he said.

Privately, however, Congress leaders conceded that it was a difficult line to keep up in view of the Congress?s stand that Modi and the state BJP government were responsible for engineering the communal riots.

The BJP sources went to the extent of pointing out that even former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was more ambiguous on Modi. It was only after Modi won the Gujarat polls did Vajpayee utter his first words of approval.

The sources said the next time Laloo Prasad Yadav or a member of his Rashtriya Janata Dal raises the Godhra issue against Modi, they would ?quote back? the Prime Minister.