Monday, September 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Modi kicks off gaurav yatra
Blames Cong for maligning Gujarat’s image

Phagwel, (Kheda), September 8
Chief Minister Narendra Modi today kissed a sword and kicked off his much-publicised and thrice-postponed Gujarat gaurav yatra here today, slamming the Congress for “creating obstacles and maligning the image of the state the world over.”

Addressing a rally at the start of the yatra, Mr Modi said neither Gujarat nor the BJP would be put down by “malicious campaign’’ and they would continue to uphold the state’s dignity and promote its progress, peace and communal amity.

Mr Modi’s predecessor Keshubhai Patel described the yatra as an “Ashwamedh yajna”.

State BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana will accompany Mr Modi on his week-end yatra that will take them through 2,000 villages in all 182 Assembly constituencies.

In its first phase that began today, the yatra, which began two hours behind the schedule, will pass through a dozen towns in Kheda and Himmatnagar districts.

Earlier, the Chief Minister accompanied by Mr Patel, BJP General Secretary Rajnath Singh and Vice-President Ramdas Agrawal, completed religious rituals - performing of a “yajna” and hoisting of a 52-yard saffron flag atop the historic Bhathiji Temple — amid showering of floral petals from a helicopter.

In a half-an-hour speech in a mix of Gujarati and Hindi that virtually kicked off the BJP’s poll campaign in the state, Mr Modi criticised the Congress for what he called its efforts to come to power in Gujarat “via the Godhra coach”.

Mr Modi said despite much hue and cry about the post-Godhra incidents, 1.20 crore students appeared for examinations and despite efforts to stall the 125th rath yatra of Lord Jagannath at Ahmedabad in July, it concluded peacefully.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi had tried to stall the yatra fearing her party’s defeat in the polls, he alleged.

“Howsoever delayed the elections be, people of Gujarat will teach a lesson to all who tried to malign the state’s honour,” he said.

Mr Modi demanded that the neighbouring Congress-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan should pay Rs 1,800 crore as arrears to Gujarat on the Narmada project so that he could finance the schemes for uplift of the weaker sections.

Referring to Gujarat Congress President Shankersinh Vaghela’s yatra last week at Phagwel, the Chief Minister said the Congress concluded its yatra in the holy village, while the BJP commenced its gaurav yatra from here. UNI

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