Till recently the Hindutva poster boy, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has begun his 72-hour fast to promote "peace, unity and brotherhood" in the state that is still nursing the wounds of the 2002 communal riots.
Following up on the Supreme Court's refusal to pass an order against him in the Ehsan Jafri murder case during the riots and the praise from a US Congressional report for the state's development, Modi sat on fast for communal harmony in the air-conditioned Gujarat University Convention Centre.
Modi chose Saturday, as it was his 61st birthday and began his fast by taking his mother's blessings.
Later, addressing a 7,000-strong crowd - with a considerable number of Muslims and women brought in from all over the state - he didn't offer any apology for the riots, but hailed his government as a shining example of inclusive development.
Dressed in a white kurta and saffron dupatta, he dubbed the 2002 riots an aberration that should not have happened.
"I said at that time that riots should not happen in a civilised society. I had felt the pain. Now also, I am feeling the pain."
Modi blamed politics of vote bank for communalism.
"The sadbhavna (harmony) mission will end the vote bank politics and bring in a fresh politics of development and prosperity in the country… The stones that were thrown on us in the past have been used to build the path of progress in Gujarat."
BJP leaders LK Advani, Arun Jaitley, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Shahnawaz Hussain, Smriti Irani and Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal were present on the stage with Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, whose Shiromani Akali Dal is a key member of the BJP-led NDA.
Meanwhile, AIADMK leader and Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa said in Chennai that her support to Modi's fast was an "expression of goodwill" and dismissed the suggestions that it indicated a change in political dynamics.
Praising Modi for Gujarat's development, Advani said if the whole country adopted a policy of "zero tolerance" towards terrorism and corruption like Modi, India would rise to new heights.
Commenting on Modi's speech at his fast venue, Jaitley said, "In the next few months, each and every word of what Modi has said would be analysed."
Much criticised for his alleged role in the 2002 riots after the Sabarmati Express carnage at Godhra, he did not directly offer any regret or apology but said that he wanted to ensure that Gujarat never slipped again.
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