Stunned BJP plots protest

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By RADHIKA RAMASESHAN in Delhi
  • Published 18.03.05
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New Delhi, March 18: Narendra Modi?s party was stunned by the US?s denial of visa to him and planned to go ballistic over it till the Centre intervened, but only to think afresh and encash the episode.

After recovering from the shock, the BJP hoped to go to town over the ?insult? not only to Gujarati ?asmita (self-respect)? but also to national pride.

Former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, who addressed the media, termed the US decision ?unprecedented and unwarranted?.

?The application of a domestic law of the US to a high political personality is unacceptable to us. Every country has the sovereign right to issue or deny visas but the exercise of this sovereign right calls for a rational approach,? he said.

The foreign ministry?s swift action in lodging a protest with the US authorities on the Gujarat chief minister?s behalf reined in the BJP till its political intuition got the better of it late in the evening.

Party president L.K. Advani will address a rally with Modi in Ahmedabad on Sunday on the plank of ?asmita?. NDA leaders George Fernandes, Naveen Patnaik and Parkash Singh Badal will be there.

The Congress synchronised its stand with the Centre and played safe and proper and refused a political comment.

?Modi is a duly elected chief minister and holds a constitutional post. He has a diplomatic passport and the right to travel anywhere. The US?s move was uncalled for,? party spokesperson Anand Sharma said.

Sharma, however, stressed that his comments must not be ?misconstrued? to mean the Congress had ?diluted? its stand on Modi?s role in the Gujarat riots.

?We are on a limited point that he is the duly elected CM of a state,? he said. This, Congress sources said, was why the party had not used ?strong? words against the visa denial.

Congress sources said had the party?s articulation been ?political?, the BJP would have launched a second Gujarat ?gaurav (pride)? yatra and brought Parliament down.

Bitten by the Goa and Jharkhand crises, the Congress did not want to risk this situation. Most party members, however, were in private happy that Modi got as ?good as he deserved?, sources said.

Sinha?s contention was that Modi was not an accused in a court of law. ?Therefore, for the US authorities to hold him, in a manner of speaking, guilty of religious intolerance on an issue of visa-grant should not be acceptable to the whole country.?

Sinha was all praise for K. Natwar Singh, whom he had barely six months ago pronounced ?unfit? to be foreign minister after the latter?s Islamabad visit.

?I wish to record my appreciation of the Government of India for obliquely condemning the denial of visa. It has not treated it as a partisan issue because it is not one. It is an issue that affects the dignity of the country,? Sinha said.

Asked how the US move would work out in Gujarat, where Modi is under attack from within his own party, a senior functionary said it would be a ?big reprieve for our Hindu hriday ka samrat (monarch of the Hindu heart)?.

?Now he will become a hero, so nobody in the BJP can touch him,? the functionary added.