After campaigning vigorously for the BJP in several states across the country, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi (58) finally turned to his own state on Tuesday, holding five rallies in different parts, where he forcefully rebutted the Congress charge that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani had acquitted himself poorly during the Kandahar hijacking episode.
“There were 400 lives at stake,” he recalled at his rally here, in the constituency from which Union textiles minister and leader of the Congress campaign, Shankersinh Vaghela, is contesting. He was referring to the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight, in exchange for whose safe return, the then NDA government released three terrorists.
He also retaliated by recalling instances when the Congress too had failed to deal firmly with terrorists. “Terrified of the possible fallout when terrorists in Kashmir threatened to blow up the Charar-e-Sharif dargah, it treated them royally for about a week, removed the army and let them slip away,” he said, referring to the 1995 incident. He recalled that prime minister Manmohan Singh had been finance minister at the time.
He referred to the kidnapping of Rubaiya, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s daughter as well,in 1989, for whose safe return, the then government had also released terrorists. He did not mention, however, that a BJP supported Janata Dal government was in power then.
Taking on critics who have called him anti-Muslim, Modi noted that the Sachar Comm-ittee report on the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in India had said that Muslims in Gujarat were better than in many other states.
“I’m not interested in vote bank politics,” he said. “I want all the 5.5 crore Gujaratis in the state, Hindus and Muslims, to prosper. There is only one solution to all our problems – development.”
But in the same breath he opposed reservations for Muslims. “Since the Supreme Court has ruled that reservations in jobs cannot cross 50 per cent, and that limit has already been reached, any further reservation for Muslims would cut into the benefits the SC/ST and backward castes enjoy,” he said.