Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took the battle into Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s turf, questioning his claims of development and improved law and order in Gujarat. Addressing his first rally in Surat for next week’s assembly polls, Singh said the biggest problem in the state is polarisation among people.
“If you are with the BJP government, you are secure in Gujarat. If not, then you are at the mercy of God,” he said. “But no one can say that the ruling government in Gujarat is protecting all the people. Rather it confuses them by talking about the fight against terrorism. Division of people is a big handicap for the state. This government thinks on narrow lines,” the prime minister said. Referring to the killing of Sohrabuddin, Singh said, “People are killed without rhyme or reason. Is this the way that law functions? Are we trying to abolish legal rights from the country?”
<b1>Meanwhile, the Supreme Court agreed to take up for hearing two separate applications seeking action against Modi for his reported justification of the fake encounter in which Sohrabuddin was killed on November 26, 2005.
In New Delhi, BJP leader LK Advani tried to turn the controversy on its head, saying that the chief minister’s remarks on Sohrabuddin were in response to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s comments and should be seen in the context of terrorism.
He said words like “merchant of death” and “dishonest”, which Sonia had allegedly used against Modi were “highly objectionable” and the “Election Commission should not have double standards and should adopt a uniform approach in both the cases”.
Countering this, the Congress said the “merchants of death” remark was not aimed at Modi.
“Mrs Gandhi took no names... She said nothing wrong. ‘Merchants of death’ was meant for the manner in which certain state functionaries were working.”
Meanwhile, the CPI urged the Election Commission to disqualify Modi from contesting the polls for his speech justifying Sohrabuddin’s killing. The demand was made by a delegation led by Gurudas Dasgupta, leader of the CPI group in Lok Sabha, when it met Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswamy here.
“It is a clear incitement to violence, misuse of religion for political ends and shameless defence of an act of murder and as such constitutes violation of the Model Code of Conduct,” said a memorandum submitted to the EC. The CPI(M) also demanded that a case be booked against Modi.
An unfazed Modi, on the other hand, continued his tirade against Congress president Sonia Gandhi, saying people of the state would teach her a lesson in the forthcoming assembly elections. “First, she said there has been no development in Gujarat. Then she said whatever development has taken place was because of the Centre’s help,” he said. “I challenge the Centre to stop grants to Gujarat for one year but it should also stop collecting taxes from the state for that period,” he said.
Modi said the Congress chief has been levelling false allegations against him. “She calls me maut ke saudagar (merchant of death). Am I so?” he asked crowds at meetings.