The timing just couldn't have been better for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. A Gujarat court has confirmed that a Supreme Court-appointed special investigative team (SIT) has found no evidence so far — after months of probe — to prosecute him for the 2002 riots.
With elections to the state assembly due in December this year, Tuesday's development has further boosted the BJP's morale in Gujarat. If Modi wins Gujarat handsomely for a third time, he can turn his attention to the national stage — ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.
In fact, Modi had earlier smelt victory on September 12, 2011, when the Supreme Court asked the SIT to place the final probe report before the magistrate's court — without ordering action against him. After Modi's associates declared that he was in the clear, he went on a sadbhavana fast in 33 places across the state to virtually launch his campaign for this year's polls.
Following Tuesday's development, it would suit Modi if the Congress focuses on the 2002 riots. Gujarat voters are polarised on that issue, and it may actually help the BJP achieve a third term with an even greater tally of seats, say party leaders.
But if the Congress were to go by local advice and stop focusing on the riots, things could get rough for Modi. Last month, the BJP suffered a shocking defeat in an assembly by-poll for the Manasa seat, after the Congress campaigned on local issues.
"It's a big relief for us," leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter.
Stating that there were no riots in Gujarat for the last 10 years, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the state's growth story was being discussed globally.