Thiruvananthapuram: Labour Minister and RSP (B) leader Shibu Baby John has run into trouble over his recent meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, with leaders of Congress and its UDF allies taking exception to it, holding the issue that the BJP leader's development model is unacceptable to Kerala.
With the issue becoming controversial, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Saturday sought an explanation from Mr John, though the latter held that he had only spoken on issues concerning skill development and training during his meeting with Mr Modi. "I have sought a clarification from John. But I would like to make it clear that the Gujarat model of development is not at all acceptable to Kerala," Mr Chandy said.
CPI (M) veteran and Opposition Leader V S Achuthanandan also said it was difficult to believe that Mr John had met Mr Modi without Mr Chandy's knowledge.
Sources close to Mr Achuthanandan also said the CPI (M) leader might stay away from a function next week at Sree Narayana Mutt at nearby Varkala, where Mr Modi is chief guest.
Though initially he sought to play down the row by saying that the meeting had no political dimension, Mr John later agreed he should have avoided it.
"I only sought to know Gujarat's model in skill development and training when I met Modi. This is part of my department. I first met the Labour Minister there (in Ahmedabad) and he suggested I meet Modi also, saying he has been in overall charge of the state," Mr John told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
What apparently annoyed Congress and UDF leaders is that the meeting took place when BJP is thinking of projecting Mr Modi as NDA's Prime Ministerial candidate to take on UPA in the next Lok Sabha polls.
When his reaction was sought, senior Congress leader and Union Minister Vayalar Ravi said the Gujarat model was not acceptable to Kerala. "I don't think there is any area of development for which Kerala should take Gujarat as a model," Mr Ravi said.
Kerala PCC President Ramesh Chennithala also criticised Mr John for meeting Mr Modi and discussing development issues with him, maintaining that the Gujarat Chief Minister is no model for Kerala.
Echoing similar views, Union Minister K C Venugopal said it was for Mr Chandy to clarify on his cabinet colleague's meeting with Mr Modi, adding, "We don't accept Modi's model as it is something puffed up by his publicists."
Senior BJP leader O Rajagopal, however, expressed surprise at the Congress leader's reactions and said "it only betrayed their intolerance."
"He (John) has met Modi in his capacity as a minister.
Gujarat is widely recognized as a good development model. In an open society it is quite natural to try to know each other's developmental experiences and share views," Mr Rajagopal said.
A few years back, former CPI (M) MP A P Abdullakutty had faced the heat for praising the Gujarat model, with Left leaders taking him to task over his statement.
Mr Abdullakutty, who also had troubles over other issues with the CPI (M) leadership, later left the party and is now a Congress MLA.