Night sting for satellite Narendra - Snubbed leader tries to work way around bar, BJP divided on extent of support

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  • Published 19.03.05

New Delhi/Ahmedabad, March 19: Before one of Narendra Modi?s hosts in America claimed tonight that the invitation has been cancelled, the chief minister was busy finalising plans to address his NRI constituency there via satellite.

Mike Patel, founder chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners? Association, said it has decided to cancel the invitation to Modi following the US decision to deny him a visa. Modi was scheduled to address a meeting in Florida on March 24. Patel said Gujaratis settled in the US have decided to stand by the decision of the US administration.

Patel?s disclosure came late in the night and it was not known whether Modi will go ahead with plans to address another audience tomorrow.

He was slated to speak to the ?Motel Patels? ? members of the Asian-American Association of Hotel Owners ? via satellite from his office in Gandhinagar when they congregate at the Madison Square Garden in New York tomorrow. A huge screen has been put up there.

Shortly before addressing the ?Motel Patels?, Modi will attend a ?swabhimaan? (self-respect) rally in Ahmedabad with BJP president L.K. Advani and NDA convener George Fernandes.

The idea, party sources said, is to ?consolidate? a fresh wave of ?pro-Modi? sentiment among overseas Gujaratis and others of Indian origin after the US denied him a visa and to tell BJP dissidents back home that his position is unassailable.

These decisions were taken in a meeting of senior leaders here this morning, chaired by Advani.

The move to address NRIs via satellite was suggested by Modi?s US sponsors, the sources added. It is a popular ploy with the Sangh parivar. When the Vishwa Hindu Parishad?s Praveen Togadia was barred from entering Kerala during the trident row, he addressed supporters in the state via telephone from Tamil Nadu.

But in Gujarat, there is ?disquiet? at the perception that he has gained a fresh lease of life just when his detractors in the party seemed to have got their act together.

A source in the party?s state unit said: ?There is a difference this time. In the past, any such episode would have silenced us completely. This time, we are not going to pull our punches. This visa denial business is an aberration and its effect will be shortlived. How can the leaders ignore the larger issues arising out of Modi?s leadership??

More than the BJP, its Sangh parivar allies, the RSS and the VHP, are galvanising the crowds for tomorrow?s rally, the sources said. Barring Fernandes, no senior NDA leader is expected to attend the meeting and ?enhance? Modi?s ?legitimacy?, Janata Dal (United) sources said.

In Delhi, opinion was divided even within the BJP on the ?extent? to which the leadership should go to defend Modi each time he lands himself in a spot.

Those seen as close to Advani and Modi felt that their ?Hindutva mascot? should be ?preserved and projected appropriately?.

But others thought the issue should be de-linked from Modi?s persona.