Hours before prime minister Narendra Modi's foundation stone laying programme for the Nagpur Metro, Urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu called up Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to persuade him not to skip the function since the project was a joint venture of the state and Centre.
However, Chavan turned down the request expressing inability to attend the programme, sources said. He also kept away from a function to inaugurate the Mouda Super Thermal Power Project Phase I. Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren has also joined his Maharashtra and Haryana (Bhupinder Singh Hooda) counterparts who have been jeered at functions where Modi is present and decided against sharing dais with the prime minister. All three states are headed for elections this year.
In his speeches, both at Mauda and Nagpur, Modi attacked corruption terming it a "disease and sin" and launched a veiled attack on the Congress without naming it.
"Corruption has destroyed the country... For some, it has become a way of life. This disease has to be banished, we have to get rid of this sin," he said, adding now some political parties were worried because of our attempt to stamp out corruption
The government and the BJP tried to emphasise on Modi's approach to "cooperative federalism" and "keenness about states playing due role in developmental initiatives with Centre acting as a catalyst."
According to the sources, a formal invitation to the Maharashtra chief minister was not sent earlier as the Union cabinet was to formally consider Nagpur Metro Project on Wednesday evening. However, on an invitation being insisted upon, Naidu sent a formal invitation. The Union minister was disappointed with Chavan's decision to keep away from the programme, sources said.
The urban development ministry officials have been in regular contact with their counterparts in the state government. Union minister Nitin Gadkari, who is the MP from Nagpur, had also been in touch with the state government, sources said.
The Maharashtra government had played an active role in connection with the foundation stone laying programme including making arrangements for media and other logistics, sources said. The state and central governments have exchanged draft advertisements to be issued.
The BJP has been saying the jeering of the chief ministers was a reflection of the public mood. "It is a matter of introspection for the Congress.... They are trying to politicise through the chief ministers," party spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.
The Congress, on the other hand, is accusing the government of performing election stunts through the project launches.