Narendra Modi changes tack but not the attack

Written by Mukesh Ranjan | Ahmedabad, Dec 6 | Updated: Dec 7 2007, 03:57am hrs
Wary of being caught on a sticky wicket in the light of the Election Commission notice, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Thursday changed tack but not his attack.

Making slight modifications in his aggressive Hindutva theme, Modi expanded his tit for tat formulation when he exhorted crowds at Sabarkantha and Navsari asking them if they were happy that the government had suceeded in putting criminals like Latif, Ibhla Sheikh and Sharaf Khan out of business.

"In Ahmedabad, there was a time when Latif and Sharaf Khan had their rein of terror and administration used to be mute spectators. They are now down and out, though none of them are killed. It's true that their activities have been curbed and are underground," Gajendra Bhai, a local shopkeeper here said. However, Gajendra Bhai agreed that Modi was pursuing his agenda of polarising the electorate, as he was tactfully refraining from mentioning names of Santok Ben Jadeja, also known for terrorising the people but belonging to the Hindu community.

Many in the BJP here, however, feel that it was the Congress, that handed over the communal card on a platter to Modi when Sonia Gandhi in a speech last week dubbed him a "merchant of death". Grabbing the opportunity, Modi promptly changed the context of his campaign from development to harping on the communal theme and polarise the electorate.

However, as a consequence of the EC notice, Modi on Thursday sought to contend that he was merely responding to the criticism from his detractors. "I am just replying to accusations made against me. If you provoke me, I shall not be silent, particularly when I am in the people's court and it's my duty to take the truth to the people," he said adding that "he was and will be a law abiding citizen".

Playing fully to the gallery, Modi lamented that he was always being misunderstood. "I fail to understand why all anti-social activities and terrorism is linked to the minorities. People should talk about a terrorist and his act, not about his clan or religion," he maintained.

Modi also said it is his democratic duty to tell the truth to people and asserted that hostile reactions to his statements on Sohrabuddin reeked of "pseudo secularism". "I will reply to whaetever issues the Congress raises and will speak in the same language and I have a right to defend himself," Modi told a television newschannel. Political observers here felt that raking up the communal issue was perhaps a major blunder committed by the Congress.