Saturday, November 24, 2012

Modi's PM ambitions suffer collateral damage

Conviction Of Ex-Min To Hurt 'Secular' Image


New Delhi: Former minister Maya Kodnani's conviction has brought the Gujarat riot trial to the Narendra Modi government's doorstep, undercutting the CM's effort to project a “secular” image as a prop for his prime ministerial aspirations.
    Modi made Kodnani a minister after his landslide win in the 2002 elections in defiance of rampant allegations of her involvement in the Naroda Patia massacre earlier that year. Kodnani was retained as minister and remained part of the ministerial team till the SIT chargesheet forced her to resign.
    Given the background, the verdict of the trial court re-ignited memories of the post-Godhra anti-Muslim violence of 2002 and the attendant accusation of the state government's failure, setting back his effort to de-emphasize what is seen by many as the defining feature of his reign with a “let-us-move-on” message. It threatens to take away from the relief Modi received when the SIT concluded there is insufficient evidence to prosecute him for involvement in the riots.
    The BJP on Wednesday challenged the argument that Kodnani's conviction is a confirmation of the charge of the Modi regime's complicity in the riots, saying she was not a minister when the communal violence broke out. The reasoning is right only in the technical sense.
    Politically speaking, it is not going to wash with those who, in any case, consider Modi to be radioactive material because of the riots. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has sought a commitment from the BJP not to project Modi for the PM's post as a pre-condition for continuing in the NDA. The verdict can only strengthen Kumar's arguments, nullifying any hope that Modi's third straight win in assembly polls and a growing anti-Congress mood may allow the BJP to persist with ambivalence on the leadership question.
    The BJP was conspicuously low-key in its response to the verdict with the otherwise vocal spokespersons trying to argue that the development was part of an ongoing legal process. “We don't want to politicize the judicial process… this is the first court, it is a judicial process, it will go on,” said party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar. Asked whether Kodnani's involvement in the riots shows complicity of the Gujarat government, he said, “I don't think so”.
Feb 28, '02 | 97 people killed by rioters at Naroda Patia, in the worst massacre of 2002 Gujarat riots May 28 | Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi arrested; released 4 months later March 26, '08 | SC forms Special Investigation Team April 2 | SIT chargesheets 15 May 20 | Maya Kodnani mentioned as conspirator for the first time by witnesses April 4, '09 | Kodnani arrested,
resigns as Gujarat minister
May 8 | Jyotsna Yagnik
appointed special judge
Aug 4 | Trial commences Dec 30, '10 | Judge Yagnik
Jan 20, '11 | SIT complains to
SC, Yagnik reinstated
Aug 29, '12 | 32 convicted,
including Kodnani, Bajrangi