Monsoon showers cannot hide Modi’s grin

Panaji: The writing is on the walls of Panaji’s Portuguese-style mansions and limestone edifices: Cut-outs, photographs and banners of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi far outnumber those of every other BJP leader.

The images set the mood for the three-day meeting of BJP leaders here, with the party’s national executive meeting over the weekend.

If you were one of those people who likes strolling the streets of this beautiful riverine city, you would not miss the smiling, beaming images of Narendra Modi, even on a darkened, rainswept morning. That is, if you got through the dense cluster of saffron lotuses, which have “suddenly” bloomed on roads, walls, barricades and electricity poles all over town.

Modi’s lifelike cut-outs, standing tall, easily feature more frequently than any other BJP leader. Even party president Rajnath Singh does not find so much space dedicated to him.

The Gujarat chief minister is certainly first among equals, as far as other BJP chief minister colleagues like Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh), Shivraj Singh Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh) and Manohar Parrikar (Goa) are concerned. Cut-outs and posters of the other chief ministers are rarer, and Goa’s Parrikar may find himself a distant second in the poster and cut-out competition.

The host chief minister, incidentally, backed Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate yesterday.

Party stalwarts like L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee feature only in group posters, and as if to complete the loop, posters of Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj appear like afterthoughts.

Even as you enter the city, a huge roundabout located near the bus stand has been converted into an arena of saffron props with flowers, banners and flags clamouring for every spare inch-space. So much so, that green, the colour which accompanies the splendour of the monsoons, seems out of sync and season.

Tourists in Goa, hoping to soak in the pleasures of raindrop tourism, however, are not too pleased.

“We certainly did not expect this. We were told that Panaji is a great city to hang out in during the monsoons, and unlike the beaches, it has a lot more splendour. With this political activity, the quiet is missing,” says Mumbai-based Shishir Kadam, who flew to Goa with family for a monsoon vacation.

Asked to comment on the city’s recently altered visual landscape, Panaji mayor Surendra Furtado said: “If they have paid the money, how can we complain?”

After skipping the office bearers’ meeting held today, an “unwell” L.K. Advani is set to miss the first day of party’s national executive meet here tomorrow as well.

BJP sources said Advani would not attend the meeting tomorrow. There were reports that the senior party leader was upset about a decision to make Narendra Modi the head of the party’s campaign committee for the 2014 general elections.

Senior party leaders say this is the first time in their memory that the party stalwart has stayed away from a meeting of the national executive.

Advani, along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, led the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the successor of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, in 1980.

According to sources, a chartered plane was ready to fly the 85-year-old leader to Goa, but he could not come. Advani’s family informed the party that his health condition ruled out travelling. He is reportedly suffering from a stomach problem.

Modi, who emerged as a strong contender to be the party’s prime ministerial candidate, is likely to be formally declared head of the party’s campaign committee for the 2014 general elections, something Advani and some other leaders have opposed.

Advani had suggested the formation of two campaign committees, one for the upcoming assembly elections in five states this year-end, led by Modi, and another one for the general elections of 2014.

A final decision on who will spearhead the party’s campaign in the upcoming general elections is expected to be announced Sunday.


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