The first day of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's three-day fast for “harmony” saw a studied indifference from ally Janata Dal (United) and strident opposition from Congress and Samajwadi Party amid gushing praise from BJP leaders.
The BJP's Gujarat prabhary Balbir Punj even suggested that AIADMK's presence bolstered Modi's chances of leading the party in the next polls.
JD(U) president and NDA convener Sharad Yadav steered clear of Modi's fast when asked: “In Gujarat we don't have an alliance with the BJP and fight elections separately."
He added: “The BJP is our ally; so why should we speak against it (the fast).” But, he wondered why there was a need for such hype over a leader’s fast in a country where 70-80 % people lived below R20 a day.
The JD(U) has maintained a distance from Modi's fast from the very beginning, indicating it still fears any truck with him can harm its prospects among Muslims in Bihar, a powerful 15% of the population.
Flaying the Gujarat CM, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, “Modi is feeling the need to fast, which means he has realized his involvement in crimes in Gujarat but fast cannot change anyone's character. Fast does not lessen Modi's crimes.” The party also accused him of "wasting" public money through his "drama".
Samajwadi Party general secretary Mohan Singh said Modi had not followed "Raj Dharma" and saw the fast as part of power struggle within BJP over 2014.
The BJP came in full support of its star CM. Party Rajya Sabha MP and Gujarat in-charge (Prabhary) Balbir Punj openly admitted Modi's growing national clout, citing the presence of ADMK MPs on the dais in support of his fast. Delhi BJP miniority cell also observed a symbolic fast to show its solidarity with Modi.
"Somewhere, the presence of AIADMK underlines the fact that Modi's personal appeal goes far beyond the BJP and NDA," he told HT over phone. Asked whether this bolstered Modi's chances of leading the party in the next general elections, Punj said, “Definitely.”
ADMK supremo Jayalalithaa, however, found the question about Modi as PM candidate speculative. She said the presence of her MPs M Thambidurai and V Maitreyan at the fast venue was a “goodwill gesture and… not about changing political dynamics”.