Saturday, September 20, 2014

Chinese President Xi Jinping's Gujarat visit: Why Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel was kept at bay?

Anandiben Patel at Sabarmati Riverfront
By Rajiv Shah
There is a veritable buzz in Gujarat: On September 17, when Chinese president Xi Jinping was in Gujarat, Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, who received Xi at Ahmedabad International Airport, was “missing” in action at any of the important ceremonies held for his five hours of stay. While she was “around”, she wasn’t “visible”, or to be more precise, the state propaganda wing ensured that she was not projected at any place – the Hyatt Hotel where Xi was welcomed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Sabarmati Ashram where Xi “remembered” Mahatma Gandhi, and the Sabarmati riverfront, where Xi took a stroll with Modi ahead of Gujarati dinner.
This is believed to be particularly strange, as Xi – before going to Delhi for high-level talks -- was officially a Gujarat guest. A prominent Modi biographer commented, “It is not surprising. This only shows that Anandiben Patel is a dummy chief minister.” Others called it “unprecedented”, as no other chief minister has ever been ignored when a top international figure visits a particular state. Insiders said, the Gujarat chief minister was present at almost all the occasions, but she was always seen on the sidelines, as if “watching” from a distance.
While Modi’s presence could be felt all through, insiders wondered why the Prime Minister refused to give enough importance to the Gujarat chief minister and kept her at bay. Indeed, Anandiben Patel has been one of Modi’s closest ideological protégés. There is a lurking suspicion that this has to do with the BJP’s recent setback in three of the nine assembly bypolls. Also, there have been strong allegations about an NGO associated with her family members virtually “capturing” several of the Gandhi Ashram’s activities.
The official state media did what it should under such circumstances: There was just one out of 13 photographs mailed to the media showing the Gujarat CM, that too vaguely. She is seen walking not very far away from additional chief secretary, home, SK Nanda, along with several other government officials, following Modi and Xi at Sabarmati Riverfront. While Modi is there in all photographs, even Gujarat chief secretary Varesh Sinha is more prominent than her – there are two photographs of Sinha signing MoU and shaking hands with Xi.
While state Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia believes that the “neglect” of Gujarat CM is a reflection of how the officialdom doesn’t yet consider Anandiben Patel as its boss, state commissioner Bhagyesh Jha, who “managed” Modi-Xi propaganda show in Gujarat, refused to reply to a query about why this has happened. In one photograph, issued by his department, he is seen as being “thanked” by Modi for the good job he did!
Till the time of writing this (3 pm), Gujarat government website, http://www.gujaratindia.com/ has not uploaded any photograph of Anandiben Patel receiving the Chinese president at the Ahmedabad airport. The only photographs of September 17 of the Gujarat CM on the site – totaling 10 – are those of her meeting with Chinese delegation to prepare for MoUs between Gujarat and China. Xi was not present in these negotiations. None of the 13 photographs of the MoU signing ceremony -- where Modi and Xi were present – show Gujarat CM’s presence.
The site has three photographs of the state information commissioner taking a stroll at the Sabarmati Riverfront along with Xi’s wife Peng Liyuan. They are seen accompanied by a junior Gujarat minister and a few officials. As for the Gujarat chief minister, she is there in just one photograph where she is seen sitting next to Xi – at the dinner time at the Sabarmati riverfront. The website carries 26 photographs of Xi and his team at the riverfront.
During Xi’s Gujarat visit, the media was kept at a distance, and the release of photographs and videos was officially “controlled”.

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