Yet another non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister, Hemant Soren, was jeered at during a function in Jharkhand capital Ranchi, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated several projects. The audience, which included BJP activists, chanted ‘Modi, Modi’ as soon as Soren took the microphone to speak. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) has a coalition government with the Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in the state.
This is the third such instance, in a week, after Maharashtra and Haryana when non-BJP chief ministers have been “insulted” by BJP supporters. In fact, by Thursday evening Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan also made it a point to skip the foundation stone laying ceremony of Nagpur Metro by PM Narendra Modi. Chavan, too, was hooted at by BJP supporters on August 16 at a function in Solapur in the presence of Modi. In view of these “orchestrated” incidents, the Congress has directed its chief ministers to avoid sharing the stage with the PM at public functions.
The BJP has hit out at the Congress for not being able to accept “the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi among the masses.” BJP spokesperson Shah Nawaz Hussain asked Congress chief ministers to take heed and not breach “constitutional propriety.” Hussain alleged, “There seems to be a complex in the minds of poll-bound Congress chief ministers. They should take care that they should not breach constitutional propriety.”
Rejecting the charge of violating constitutional propriety, the Congress says there is only official protocol. The issue has assumed political overtones as Congress perceives a “deliberate” and orchestrated attempt to humiliate its chief ministers especially with an eye on the coming Assembly elections. Congress General Secretary Ambika Soni on Thursday went to the extent of saying “this is a well-thought-out plan, a conspiracy…If the prime minister was serious, he should have sent a directive to his partymen immediately to stop all this.”
On Wednesday evening, Chavan had made it known he would not attend the foundation stone-laying function for Nagpur Metro. He said he would only abide by official protocol which mandates the chief minister to receive and see off the PM when he arrives or departs a visiting state capital. Soon after Chavan’s no show in Nagpur, Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre spoke out in support of Chavan’s decision. “Considering the manner in which chief ministers are being treated at PM’s events…The post of CM of Maharashtra is a matter of pride, no matter to which party he/she belongs. Any behaviour that hurts his pride is an insult to Maharashtra.”
The Congress — which was already smarting under the “insult” that had been meted out to Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda at a function in Kaithal when he was booed at by the crowd — even took the step of warning its alliance partner in Jharkhand, the JMM, and Chief Minister Soren on Wednesday evening itself.
AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed had gone on record to say, “Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren should be cautious. It’s not only about Congress chief ministers.” He said, “There is a political design behind this. The prime minister has visited poll-bound states like Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Haryana.”
A close aide of Hooda told Business Standard, “Why should we go out of our way to accord respect to the office of the prime minister when he does not know how to respect elected representatives. He is deliberately turning public events into political ones, especially in states going to the polls.”
Congress leaders say Modi has attempted to score political points at each of his outings in poll-going states and has not behaved as per the decorum expected from the country’s prime minister.