Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Sunday tried hard to pull back from a controversy he stirred up by praising BJP leader and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. But it may not be easy to do so with parties either praising or criticising him for it.
Hazare had appreciated the developmental work done by Modi and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and urged others to follow their example. This raised questions about the justification of such praise when Modi had presided over the 2002 communal riots and failed to appoint a lokayukta for over nine years.
Faced with these questions in his news conference at the Press Club of India, Hazare tried to insulate his praise from other aspects of Modi’s governance.
“I will accept Modi as 100% successful when he brings the lokayukta in his state…I do not support communal politics or riots…I am only talking about decentralisation of power,’’ he said, adding: “I am not supporting any party.’’
His colleague Arvind Kejriwal pitched in: “Hazare is a very secular man. What he said related to rural development only.’’
But Congress MP Rashid Alvi charged “no secular person can support Modi….If you support Modi, you are supporting the 2002 massacre.’’ NCP’s Tariq Anwar accused Hazare of playing into the BJP’s hands.
BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain, however, appreciated Hazare’s praise. “In NDA-ruled states. concrete steps are being taken against corruption. This is good that he cited both states as examples.’’
With the controversy threatening to grow, Hazare issued a clarification saying that he had praised only Modi and Kumar’s developmental work in rural areas.
“I am completely opposed to any kind of communalism or discrimination on religious or caste lines. I strongly condemn and oppose any kind of communal violence…I strongly believe in Gandhian values and principles of communal harmony….The movement is completely non partisan and will remain so.’’