The Palghar Facebook controversy found an echo in the Gujarat election campaign when chief minister Narendra Modi on Sunday pointed to the harassment of young Shaheen Dadha faced in Congress-ruled Maharashtra to counter prime minister Manmohan Singh’s attack on his government.
“This young Muslim girl says she feels safer in Gujarat than in neighbouring Maharashtra, a state ruled by the Prime Mini-ster’s own party. Moreover, Muslims were also killed in large numbers in another Congress-ruled state, Assam, which the PM represents in the Rajya Sabha. And, he has the gall to come to my state and sow the seeds of discord among communities who are living here in peace,” Modi said at an election rally here.
Shaheen had been picked up by the police on a complaint by Shiv Sainiks after she had made a post on Facebook questioning the need for a shutdown for Bal Thackeray’s funeral.
Her friend Rinu srinivasan, who had ‘liked’ the post, was also picked up. After a nationwide outcry, the Maharashtra government had suspended the senior cops involved and promised to close the case against the young women.
With no new issues to focus his campaign on, Modi was in search of a 'maut ka saudagar' moment. He may now well have got it, squeezing an issue out of the prime minister's otherwise careful address to the people at Vansda village in Navsari district, a tribal belt and a Congress stronghold in South Gujarat.
Modi picked on a single statement of the Prime Minister’s, made almost in passing. He had said the minorities, adivasis and other weaker sections felt unsafe in Gujarat.
Modi seized on this to bring up Shaheen’s case. The 21-year-old had left Palghar for Gujarat and was quoted as saying she felt unsafe in Mumbai,
Modi had already wound up his campaigning in Surat but returned for one last meeting - the region goes to polls on December 13 - on Sunday evening after two successful rallies by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh over the weekend.
He appealed to the people to wipe out the Congress from Gujarat and teach the party a fitting lesson. "I will not allow the Congress hand to pilfer your treasury. I am not your chief minister, I am your chowkidar!" The applause was thunderous.