Chief minister Narendra Modi on Sunday insisted his three-day fast was not aimed at wooing "any particular community or religion". But he admitted people had "suffered immense pain" in Gujarat, where the 2002 communal riots claimed at least 1,000 lives, mostly Muslim.
"Sadbhavna Mission is not about any particular community or religion. It is about the people of Gujarat. Gujarat's progress has shown the way forward," Modi said on the second day of his fast, flanked by top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.
"Gujarat has suffered immense pain. I empathise with the families that have suffered. I can still feel the pain," Modi said in his address in what was seen as a reference to the Gujarat communal violence in 2002.
"The mission is to unite, not divide. Gujarat is my family, the six crore Gujaratis' happiness and grief, dreams and aspirations are mine," Modi asserted. The fast is taking place at the Gujarat University and is widely seen as a bid to woo the minorities.
Modi cited the achievements of his 10-year reign for the fast aiming for "peace, unity and harmony".
The chief minister also indicated working within the BJP.
"We will work on the differences. And work together to take the BJP forward among the people of India," Modi told a news channel.
Day 2 of the fast may see BJP member and former cricketer Navjot Singh Siddhu at the venue.
The first day saw a galaxy of party stalwarts, including L K Advani, Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shanker Prasad, former party president Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as well as Rajya Sabha member and TV star Smriti Irani.
AIADMK leader in the Lok Sabha M. Thambidurai and his counterpart in the Rajya Sabha V. Maitreyan were also present.
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal also came. However, there was no representative of the Janata Dal(United) with which the BJP shares power in Bihar.
The fast is being countered by Modi's Congress rival and one-time Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh colleague Shankarsinh Vaghela at the Sabarmati Ashram.
Vaghela slammed Modi's event with his parallel fast to protest his regime's "corruption and wastefulness".