Congress on Saturday slammed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi saying his appearance before investigators probing 2002 riots has brought "ill-repute" to the high office he holds, while the BJP dismissed suggestions that it was an embarrassment for the party.
"It is unprecedented that a person occupying a Constitutional position, that too of the Chief Minister, has been summoned for investigation in a case of mass murder," Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said.
"If the BJP has even an iota of morality, it should have asked him to step down before bringing such a high office to
ill-repute," he said.
Modi appeared before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) in Gandhinagar and was questioned for
the first time on his alleged role in the Gujarat riots.
BJP sought to blame the media for speculating on Modi's non-appearance before the SIT. "It was the media that created an impression that he (Modi) was not keen on appearing before the SIT. Modi respects the judiciary. He abides by the law as also the institutions set up by the Supreme Court," BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said.
Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said, "In public perception, Modi has been held guilty. I don't think he has
done anything extraordinary by appearing before the Special Investigation Team probing the Gujarat riots.
"He should be brought to justice," she said. Another BJP spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman denied suggestions that Modi's appearance before the Supreme Court-appointed probe panel was an embarrassment for the party.
"I dont think it is any embarrassment to the party. The Chief Minister had said in the Gujarat Assembly and also in the public letter last week that nobody was above the law and that also included the Chief Minister of the state," she said.
She also pointed out that no FIR was registered against the Gujarat Chief Minister. Social activist and known Modi-baiter Teesta Setalvad termed the SIT's questioning of the BJP leader as a "significant development."
"It is a very significant step that a sitting Chief Minister is actually forced to answer very hard questions regarding his role in the 2002 riots," she said.
Setalvad said that the development was significant as it sent out a message that with the Supreme Court watching,
nobody is above the law. She said that Modi's questioning could lead to an FIR being lodged against the Chief Minister. "We have full faith that with the Supreme Court's eagle eye on the case, justice will be done."