Sunday, November 25, 2012

Godhra ghost haunting, hurting CM politically

Gujarat EDN
TOI 01SEP2012

Ajay Umat TNN

Ahmedabad: The ghost of Godhra continues to haunt chief minister Narendra Modi even as he sets his eyes on a larger political role. And, for this astute politician known for his impeccable sense of timing, time seems to be running out fast.
    Barely 100 days ahead of assembly elections, the series of convictions in riot cases have only aggravated Modi’s credibility crisis. He may have got a clean chit for his alleged role in the riots, but the association with BJP leaders like Dr Maya Kodnani who was convicted for murder and conspiring to kill Muslims, can not only trip his flight towards the Centre but also spell trouble for him in the state polls.
    So far, there have been over 190 convictions, including 11 death penalties and at least 100 life sentences, in riots cases like Sardarpura, Dipda Darwaja, Ode and Naroda Patia.
    Modi, who tried to drop off his hardliner tag through state-wide Sadbhavana missions, is under a threat of upsetting the Hindu vote bank if he welcomes the verdicts. If he doesn’t, there is a fear that his Sadbhavana talks may ring hollow. Special court judge Jyotsna Yagnik observed that there was a conspiracy by Kodnani and other saffron leaders. This is sure to dent his Sadbhavana image.
    The verdicts, especially in Naroda Patia, are expected to provide the much-needed ammunition, not only to the Congress but also Modi’s own critics within the NDA and Sangh Parivar who are itching to keep him out of the prime ministerial race.
    Leading the charge is Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has been on a collision course with Modi for a few years now. Much before the saffron outfit frowned at his Sadbhavna mission, its leaders were enraged at the demolition of temples in Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad.
    VHP leader Dr Pravin Togadia on Friday condemned the Naroda Patia verdict and offered his outfit’s full support to all convicted persons. “VHP will support with all its might all the Hindus convicted in the case,” he told reporters in Surat.
    The troubles do not end here. Modi’s bĂȘte noire Keshubhai Patel is threatening to deeply divide the politically influential Patels. There is nothing Modi has been able to do to stop this BJP veteran from pulling massive crownds in recent days. Beside Keshubhai, a silent revolt already started brewing among Patels against the BJP after the Sardarpura verdict – almost all convicts in the massacre case are Patels.