Days after he was booed at a function in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was on Friday invited for “tea” by the Prime Minister in what is being seen as a fence-mending exercise. After the meeting, Hooda said the Prime Minister also must have felt “not good” about the incident, which he said was the handiwork of local BJP leaders.
At the The Indian Express’s Idea Exchange programme, Hooda said the people who hooted him were brought there by “ticket-seekers” for the upcoming Assembly elections. “Because elections are near, every ticket-seeker came with 300 people or 500 people. That was all pre-planned,” he said. “It was not good. And I think the Prime Minister must also have felt it.”
Indicating that he was willing to turn the page and move on, Hooda said he had decided not to attend such functions with the Prime Minister “if this kind of attitude is there”. “If they change their attitude, well and good,” he said.
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Hooda said the Prime Minister invited him for tea and they discussed many issues. “He called me for tea and I went and we had tea. I respect him. We have been sitting next to each other for 10 years. Gujarat and Haryana used to sit next to each other (at Centre-convened meetings of chief ministers),” he said.
Besides, Hooda said he has a Gujarat connection. “This is not the first time I am interacting with him. I have studied in Gujarat. And we have been sitting together for 10 years. So many times we have interacted,” he said.
“Anybody who is the Prime Minister, he does not belong to any party. He is the Prime Minister of the country. The institution of Prime Minister has got its own place and it does not belong to any party. It belongs to the nation. I respect both. Institution of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister also,” he said.
Hooda said the ruckus at the event in Kaithal earlier this week was “undoubtedly pre-planned by the BJP”. “This was not required. You cannot politicise a government function. Congress Prime Ministers also used to go for such functions in non-Congress ruled states. Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to go. It was all planned by local unit leaders who were there.”
The Congress has already pointed an accusing finger at the Prime Minister for the hooting of Opposition Chief Ministers at public functions attended by him. Targeting Modi, it has argued that no Prime Minister before him had sought to publicly humiliate Chief Ministers in this fashion.
Hooda, however, said Modi may not be party to it as alleged by the Congress. “I can’t say that, but anything happens in my presence, anything my party men do, naturally it will reflect on me also. I may not be party to it… He (Prime Minister) must also be feeling not good. Because he is the Prime Minister,” he said. So whether the Prime Minister should speak his mind on this issue, Hooda said, “That is for him to decide.”
“It is not the question of the Prime Minister. It is the question of party. It was pre-planned by party persons. At what level I don’t want to discuss. It should not have happened. It is not only about the Prime Minister, other ministers also hold functions…. I was there because I am the CM. Had I not been the Chief Minister there was no obligation on me to be there. Protocol demands it,” he said.