Three more chief ministers Sunday opted out of Narendra Modi’s swearing-in while Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa kept the suspense going with hours to go for the ceremony.
Citing other programmes, the offices of Kerala Chief Minister Ommen Chandy and Orissa’s Naveen Patnaik said they would not attend while Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s office gave no reason in a statement declaring he would not travel to Delhi. According to a schedule released by the CMO for Monday, however, Siddaramaiah has several programmes in Bangalore.
Jayalalithaa, who commands a 37-member group in the new Lok Sabha, had criticised the decision to invite Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the function, warning it could have impact the relationship between the Centre and the state. She has kept silent since then, though indications are that neither the chief minister nor her MPs will go to Delhi.
The two had shared a good personal equation in the past, and had attended the ceremonies to swear each other in. The relationship turned frosty after they turned competitors ahead of this Lok Sabha election in which both won spectacularly, but one walked away with all the prizes.
NDA ally the MDMK has announced a decision to hold a protest in Delhi to coincide with the swearing-in, while another ally, the PMK, which has an MP in Anbumani Ramadoss, too has opposed the Lankan president’s presence. Neither party has, however clarified whether it will attend or skip the event. The DMDK, the NDA’s biggest ally from Tamil Nadu, has extended tacit support by marking a protest but toeing the BJP line.
In Kerala, the CM’s office said Chandy has got an invitation but will not go to the event due to other programmes in Kerala. Chandy has, however, sought an appointment on June 2, for a courtesy call. Party sources said the decision to skip the swearing-in was mainly on political grounds.
BJP state president V Muraleedharan said the Kerala CM should have attended the event as a representative of the state. “Chandy is not merely a Congress leader. He should be aware of his role as a representative of the state. This could have been an opportunity for the Kerala government to show that the state does not treat the Modi government as untouchable.”
Naveen Patnaik, meanwhile, will send Finance Minister Pradip Amat. BJD spokesperson Baijayant “Jay” Panda too will attend the event. BJD sources said Naveen has also allowed party MPs to attend if invited.
One reason being cited is that Naveen will be tied up with the election of the assembly speaker. However, party sources said Naveen is cut up with Modi’s jibes during the polls — that Biju Patnaik’s soul would have been very hurt seeing a ruined Orissa.
State BJP president K V Singh Deo said, “When the Pakistani PM can come for the swearing-in, I don’t know what stopped our chief minister. Anyway, it’s his decision.”