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Gujarat Votes
‘Gujarat Shining’ dims
Modi back to hardline Hindutva
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Ahmedabad, December 5
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi seems to have made an abrupt course correction from his ‘Jeetega Gujarat’ campaign to hardline Hindutva even as the opposition Congress draws a huge response in the state’s hinterland.

Ever since the election campaigning kicked-off last weekend, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been making pit stops across the state highlighting the government’s failure in providing water and power supply to Gujarat’s farmers. With mounting public anger following the Modi government’s decision to privatize power supply, the BJP has been forced on the defensive in several constituencies across the state.

In 50 of the 182 constituencies, the official BJP candidate is facing tough times from party rebels who are said to be giving a tough fight.

On Tuesday, Modi abruptly switched to hardline Hindutva, in what is being seen in Ahmedabad as a strategic shift during the last stage of the BJP’s election campaign. At an election rally in Mangrol in South Gujarat on Tuesday, Modi is said to have told the crowd that “Sohrabuddin got what he deserved”.

The Supreme Court is occupied with the case where Sohrabuddin Sheikh was allegedly pulled out of a transport bus and killed by top Gujarat police officials on November 26, 2005. Sheikh's wife Kauserbi is missing and presumed to have been killed as well.

Senior police officers from the state including DIG D. Vanzara of the Special Investigation Team are facing a probe for carrying out the murder of Sohrabuddin in cold blood. Vanzara and the other police officials are currently lodged in jail for the murder.

However Modi is not embarassed in the least. “The Congress hasn’t yet sent to the gallows those who attacked parliament. And it is now speaking on behalf of Sohrabuddin... You tell me what should be done to people like Sohrabuddin who store illegal arms and ammunition,” Modi reportedly asked the crowd. “Kill him, kill him,” the crowd is reported to have roared back. Modi then asked if he should take permission from Sonia Gandhi to kill terrorists.

“Hang me if I have done anything wrong,” Modi has been quoted as saying. After Modi’s speech was reported in local newspapers today, the Congress leaders in Gujarat said they were studying his speech before taking it before the EC.

“Since Narendra Modi has nothing to show after being in office for six years, he is making such remarks. First it was Ram Mandir, then Ram Setu and now it’s Sohrab,” leader of the opposition Arjun Modhwadia said.

Modi’s speech comes days after Sonia Gandhi at a rally called the BJP leaders in Gujarat “merchants of death”. AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh went onto condemn “Hindu terrorism” along with “Muslim terrorism” at a function to release the party’s manifesto. Singh’s speech hasn’t gone down well with Hindu voters here and the party has since decided to concentrate on issues like water and electricity to keep the voters in good humour.

A defensive BJP has decided to blame the Congress for the heightened communal campaign in Gujarat. The party’s spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said Modi was only reacting to remarks made by the Congress leaders in Gujarat.

In her latest salvo, Congress president Sonia Gandhi addressing farmers’ rally in the Kutch region attacked the Narendra Modi government for not bringing the waters of the Narmada to this perpetually parched region. About 60,000 kms of the canals that are to carry the Narmada waters to this region is yet to be constructed though supply of water to Kutch was one of the main reasons for the construction of the Narmada dam.

“People are thirsting for water to drink and irrigate. Just increasing the height of the dam does not ensure farmers will get water. To take Narmada water to farmers, canals have to be constructed, which the BJP has failed to do in five years,” Gandhi told a gathering of farmers.

Water in this region is available 1000 feet below the earth’s surface and a shortage of water means farmers cannot pump-up the water for irrigation. “Farmers are given electricity for only three to five hours in a day. Why do farmers, who have spent lakhs of rupees constructing bore-wells, not get power to irrigate?” Sonia Gandhi asked.

Though her speeches read from prepared texts are uninspiring there seems to be a groundswell of support for the Congress in rural Gujarat.



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