Hardliner Modi talks harmony
Ahmedabad, September 17
Buoyed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to pass any order against him in the Ehsan Jafri murder case and words of praise from a US Congressional report, Modi sat on fast on his birthday in the air-conditioned Gujarat University Convention Centre flanked by top BJP and allied party leaders.
“I had said at that time (2002) these riots should not have happened in a civilised society. At that time, I had felt the pain and now also I am feeling the pain,” he said in his speech to an audience that had a sprinkling of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs among others.
Often attacked for his alleged complicity in the violence that shook Gujarat after the Sabarmati Express carnage, Modi did not directly offer any regret or apology but said that he wanted to ensure that Gujarat never slips below parameters of humanity.
Modi marked his 62nd birthday by taking blessings from his mother before beginning the fast.
Top BJP leaders LK Advani, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Muktar Abbas Naqvi and Rajiv Pratap Rudy were on the stage along with Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal,AIADMK leaders M Thambidurai and V Maitreyan. But BJP’s longtime ally JD(U) was conspicuous by its absence.
Badal said the whole of India looked to Modi when it came to governance and development. Praising Modi for Gujarat’s development, Advani said if the whole country adopted a policy of “zero tolerance” towards terrorism and corruption like him, India would rise to new heights at the global level.
In his speech, Modi said in the name of secularism and vote-bank politics, India was being divided by pitting castes and communities against each other. Maintaining that the fast was not against anybody, Modi said: “We want to take this spirit to each and every village ... each and every house. This fast is not against anybody and I don't want to speak about anybody. Gujarat wants to move forward. We want to be in service of India.”
“We want to move together and Sadhbhavna (harmony) will be our strength. Development is our only motto. We will be a model for the world on how development can be achieved with peace, harmony and brotherhood,” Modi said.
Speaking about the fast, he said: “It was the need of the hour. Unity, peace and harmony have a major role to play in our success, our development. Because we have treaded this path and I wanted this message to reach out to people, this fast was the best means to do so,” he maintained.
“Six crore Gujaratis have gone through a lot of penance to ensure such a situation. If I fast, my words would carry more weight and I will be able to reach out to more people,” he said.
Modi claimed that in 1980s and 1990s the atmosphere in Gujarat used to be filled with tension and there would be curfew for months together. Small fight over kite flying or cycling would trigger communal riots, he said.
“However, since the last 10 years, there has been no curfew. This was not because of some preaching or an individual but because of people of Gujarat who have understood the true value of harmony, peace and unity,” said Modi.
Meanwhile, the fast also drew sharp reactions from major political parties with the Congress saying fasts do not lessen Gujarat Chief Minister's “crimes” and the Samajwadi Party attributing it to “power struggle” within the BJP.
“Modi is feeling the need to fast, which means he has realised his involvement in crimes in Gujarat but fast cannot change anyone's character. Fast does not lessen Modi’s crimes,” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said. Samajwadi Party general secretary Mohan Singh said Modi has “no moral right” to fast as he has not followed Rajdharma and still lots of women were running from pillar to post for justice including the wife of former Home Minister Haren Pandya. "The fast was reflective of the power struggle in the BJP with Modi wanting to grab the centrestage at a time when Advani is re-asserting himself," the SP leader said. JD-U chief Sharad Yadav dismissed the fast as a publicity stunt. — PTI