LK downplays Nitish-Modi ad issue, reaches out to Nitish

Soft-pedalling the controversy over the Nitish-Modi advertisement, Advani today said "small problems" do occur in an alliance while JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav asserted that the "unpleasant" incident has been left behind.

Patna: Soft-pedalling the controversy
over the Nitish-Modi advertisement, senior BJP leader L K
Advani today said "small problems" do occur in an alliance
while JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav asserted that the "unpleasant"
incident has been left behind.

"There can be differences in an alliance. I read in
the newspapers that due to an advertisement, there were
cracks. But by shaking hands, how can there be cracks. It can
only lead to friendship and small problems do occur," Advani
said addressing the party`s Swabhiman rally here.

Reaching out to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who
had yesterday taken strong exception to the newspaper ad
showing him holding hands with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra
Modi, the BJP patriarch said he would have been happy had
Kumar been present at the rally.

Advani fondly recalled how in 1995 the JD(U) leader
had attended the BJP`s national convention in Mumbai when he
invited then Samata Party ailing leader George Fernandes for
the meet.

He said Kumar has since been a part of the NDA and
has been a senior minister for six years in the Vajpayee

"I would have been very happy if Nitish was present
here today at this grand rally and addressed it with us," the
former BJP president said.

No other BJP leader, including party chief Nitin
Gadkari or Modi took the name of Kumar.

Gadkari, however, appealed to the people to vote NDA
to power for the second time in the state to further speed up
development and spoke of adherence to `coalition dharma`.

Modi took a dig at Kumar while thanking Bihar for
helping Gujarat after the 2001 earthquake and also praised the
contribution of the people of the state in development of his

Kumar had yesterday criticised the Gujarat
Government`s claim that it had provided aid liberally to Bihar
after the Kosi floods, prompting the Chief Minister to say
that it was an "uncivilised" comment and he was willing to
return the relief money.

Advani`s attempt to extend the olive branch came on
the heels of a statement by the JD(U) chief downplaying the
stand-off between Kumar and Modi and emphasising that the
JD(U)-BJP have "old ties".

"Our alliance and relationship is quite old... an
unpleasant incident took place yesterday and it has passed,"
Sharad Yadav said, but added that it was customary from the
head of the government before their photographs appear in

The BJP has been an ally of Kumar for nearly two
decades in the struggle for ridding Bihar of its misrule and
bringing good governance in the state, Advani maintained in
his speech.

He asserted that Nitish`s achievements as Chief
Minister were possible due to support of the BJP.

BJP sources said that at the Executive meeting, BJP
President Nitin Gadkari sent a clear message to Kumar that his
party was not going to compromise on self-respect, which was
most important to it.

At the same time, Gadkari struck a conciliatory note by
saying that BJP was a mature political party whose leadership
has resilience and "respect(s) every leader, partnership and
alliance" and it is the "job of a mature political party to
take all along".

"We are a mature party which has a mature leadership
with resilience...We are showing maturity. For us, our
self-respect is most important. We are not going to compromise
on our self-respect," party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy
told reporters.

Rudy said that the party leaders attending the
national executive meet were "fortunate that we are being
hosted under the best possible arrangement", a statement meant
to thank the state government headed by Kumar, leading the
JD(U)-BJP coalition.

The BJP spokesman defended Modi over the advertisements
that have angered Kumar.

"He is a leader and a successful Chief Minister and
the way he is running the state is being hailed by his
supporters and some overzealous among them have made efforts
to widen his appeal by showing what is the truth," Rudy said.

He also downplayed the advertisements issued by the
Gujarat government in prominent newspapers today, highlighting
the achievements of the Modi administration.

"The state governments and Central government come
out with such advertisements regularly," he said.

Kumar had cancelled a dinner for BJP top brass last
night following the controversy over the advertisements.

In the previous state polls and the Lok Sabha elections,
Nitish Kumar had not allowed Modi to campaign in Bihar.

With the Bihar assembly elections due later this year,
the JD(U) leader has made it known that he would not like to
be seen with Modi, the face of hardline Hindutva, and be
associated with any move that could anger his Muslim votebase.

Criticising Kumar, Bihar`s Cooperative Minister Giriraj
Singh of BJP said, "How can he (Kumar) treat BJP as his friend
while its icon Modi is unacceptable."

The state police today carried out searches at the
office of the ad agency Expression Advertising that issued the
controversial advertisement. Its head in Patna said the ad had
been cleared by Surat BJP MP CR Patil.


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