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The Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi was on Tuesday trending on Twitter after whistleblower Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks circulated a US consulate cable describing the Gujarat chief minister as an "insular and distrustful person".
Earlier on Monday, WikiLeaks said the BJP had pushed fake endorsement in support of Modi. In a series of tweets on Monday, WikiLeaks claimed it never said Modi was incorruptible, a stand contrary to what a section of BJP supporters allegedly believes.
While many Twitter users played up certain negative observations about Modi on Tuesday, several others felt the Gujarat strongman needed nobody's certification — a stand taken by the BJP on Monday.
“US ambassador: #Modi ‘insular, distrustful person… reigns by fear and intimidation… hoards power…’,” WikiLeaks tweeted in a string of posts it published on Monday.
“Modi does not need any certificate from WikiLeaks… we all know how good Modiji is...,” a tweet read in reply to the post by WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks went on to tweet a secret cable sent by the US Embassy in 2006 which criticised Modi's style of functioning.
"Views remain divided on whether Modi's leadership style will help or harm him if he enters national politics. In public, Modi can be charming and likable. By all accounts, however, he is an insular, distrustful person... He reigns more by fear and intimidation than by inclusiveness and consensus, and is rude, condescending and often derogatory to even high level party officials. He hoards power...," one such diplomatic cable under a sub-heading "Modi's Leadership Style" said.
The US consulate, however, added that all of its interlocutors acknowledged that Modi is a modest man “who, unlike many elected officials in India, has not used his position to enrich himself or his family”.
“Most contacts also say that he has purged the state administration of petty corruption at the mid and lower levels of the bureaucracy. However, several people tell us that big ticket corruption is still common,” it added.
The BJP, however, downplayed the tweets by WikiLeaks. "We don't need a certificate from Wikileaks or Assange on Modiji," BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal have questioned Modi's development claims and ‘clean image’ at their recent rallies.
The controversy dates back to 2006, when US diplomat and Mumbai consular general Michael S Owen, according to WikiLeaks, met with Modi.
The whistleblower website published a cable on the minutes of the meeting held about eight years before US ambassador Nancy Powell met Modi in Gandhinagar this February and marked the end of the country's nine-year boycott imposed on the Gujarat chief minister in the aftermath of the 2002 riots. The US had denied Modi a diplomatic visa in 2005.
Owen and Modi had discussed Gujarat's development, investment in the state as well as communalism, said the Wikileaks cable.
It highlights the part where Rajkot Congress party leader Manoharsinh Jadeja said Modi's "accomplishments were undeniable".
A WikiLeaks tweet said, "The Modi "incorruptible" quote comes from…Manoharsinh…"
Owen's note in the cable also said, "Modi is clearly not going to apologise or back down on the violence of 2002 (but)…We believe Sinhji's comment on Modi are indeed accurate…"
After the cable was released in 2011, the BJP had reportedly boasted of Modi's honesty and Gujarat's development model.