Convincing the Tatas to locate its small car project in Gujarat may have won him accolades, but Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s latest development campaign is earning him a lot of brickbats.
The state’s capital Gandhinagar observed a bandh on Wednesday in protest against demolition of roadside temples — 152 over the past week — with the silent approval of Modi, often described as Hindutva’s mascot. The Chief Minister has not spoken on the issue yet, but apparently wants all encroachments on roads removed, true to the image that he wants to build for himself — a no-nonsense development leader.
“Even God will not forgive Modi,” said Manabhai Marwadi, the trustee of a prominent Sai Baba temple demolished on Tuesday night.
But Modi isn’t particularly worried about a divine fury at this moment. “The bandh had no effect and illegal structures will be razed in future too,” Road and Buildings Minister Anandiben Patel told HT, adding that 312 such small temples have been identified as illegal structures.
Mandir Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, comprising trustees of the various temples and the MahaGujarat Janata Party (MJP) — formed few months back by BJP rebels who were expelled for anti-Modi utterances last year — are spearheading the agitation against the Chief Minister.
“He (Modi) captured power here through Hindu fanaticism but now wants to be the PM by pretending to be secular,” said Gordhan Zadhaphia, former Minister of State for Home and MJP president.Zadhaphia believes Modi ordered the demolitions in his effort to present a secular face to the NDA allies whose support he needs to become the Prime Minister.
“Harassing and punishing Hindus have become synonymous with being secular,” he said citing the example of the arrest of VHP general secretary Ashwin Patel on sedition charges for sending derogatory SMS against Modi after the July 26 serial blasts.
However, any description of Modi as secular may not confirm with his other, recent utterances. In Madhya Pradesh where he campaigned for the BJP, Modi accused the Congress of being “anti-Hindu.”
Though the bandh was partial, police resorted to lathicharge on local residents who pelted stones at the demolition squads and bulldozers of the Road & Building department.