PM alert keeps Modi off London

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  • Published 24.03.05

Ahmedabad, March 24: Less than a week after the US slammed its doors on Narendra Modi?s face, the Gujarat chief minister has had to cancel his visit to the UK.

Modi, who was to leave for London on a private visit tomorrow morning, called off the trip after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to him.

Around 10.30 pm, Singh telephoned the chief minister to ask him not to travel to Britain in view of a perception of threat to his life. The Prime Minister told Modi that if he still wanted to go ahead with the visit, the state police chief should set up a control room and coordinate with the British High Commission and the Indian security establishment, sources said.

Union home minister Shivraj Patil also spoke to the chief minister, whose US visa was revoked on Friday because of the Gujarat riots.

Modi then called up BJP president L.K. Advani and, after a discussion with him, decided not to travel. He will address the media tomorrow.

The chief minister was to have gone to London to address Vibrant Gujarat, a cultural programme of the Gujarati community there.

The proposed visit had sparked an outcry in Britain, with several civil rights groups planning to hold protests outside the Royal Albert Hall, the venue of his meeting.

The Council of Indian Muslims also sent an open letter to British foreign secretary Jack Straw, urging him to ensure that Modi is barred entry and some individuals threatened to take legal action against the chief minister.

Tony Blair?s government, which has been one of the most vocal critics of the Gujarat riots and the state government?s failure to prevent them, had not issued Modi a diplomatic visa, making it clear it would have nothing to do with him officially. But, unlike the US, it did not bar him from entering the country on an ordinary visa.

Washington not only refused to grant Modi a diplomatic visa, it also revoked his 10-year tourist/business visa. The decision sparked an uproar from the BJP.

The Manmohan Singh government also opposed the move while making it clear it did not endorse Modi?s role in the riots.