New Delhi: With eye on the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections slated for later this year, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has declared that he should be hanged if he is found guilty of complicity in the communal riots that rocked Gujarat for over three months in 2002.
Modi chose the Urdu daily Nai Duniya to reach out to the Muslims directly, in the run up to Gujarat Assembly polls. This statement follows the Sadbhavna fasts he observed in each of the districts in Gujarat, in what was seen as an attempt at an image makeover, trying to live down his hardliner image.
With Modi aspiring to emerge as the BJP Prime Ministerial face in the General Election in 2014, he is keen to live down the ugly image of the Gujarat communal carnage of 2002. He is making all-out efforts to overcome the communal tag, in order to win over Allies, which is so very important to realise his Prime Ministerial ambitions.
Significantly, Samajwadi Party leader Shahid Siddiqui, who edits Nai Duniya, provided Modi a platform to present his detailed and elaborate version of the riots and explain how he has been demonised by the media for the past 10 years.
“There is no question of apologising because if I have committed this crime, then I should not be forgiven, I should be hanged. And I should be hanged in such a way that people should learn a lesson for 100 years that nothing like this should happen,” Modi said in the interview, rejecting the demand for apology for the Gujarat riots.
On the other hand, Modi said, “If I have not committed the crime, then the nation and the media especially should seek my forgiveness.”
Contrary to his claims, Modi in the past firmly declined to sport the Muslim skull cap offered to him by a Muslim cleric during his famous Sadbhavna fasts.
Modi refused to apologise for the riots and for the misery caused under his dispensation, even as Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised for the anti-Sikh riots that rocked the Capital in the wake of the dastardly assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. On the other hand, Modi accused the media of doing injustice to him for the last 10 years for demonising him and demanded that they should apologise to him.
Modi has also consistently refused to be drawn into schemes to woo Muslims, insisting that Muslims should be won over only through good governance. If a road is laid in a village, it is used by Hindus and Muslims and Muslims will vote for the BJP for the good governance, is his logic. Modi refused to woo Muslims with schemes specifically worked for them, lest he should attract the charge of Minority Appeasement.
The Congress sharply reacted to Modi’s impassioned interview to Nai Duniya, both at the national and State level. Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said to prove his guilt, it is necessary to file an FIR and no police station in Gujarat will ever register an FIR according to civil society activists, he said.
Gujarat Congress leader Arjun Modvadia, on the other hand, wondered why he chose an Urdu daily to make such a statement. Indeed, Modi should make his statement in the court and prove his innocence.