THE BJP does not see the Supreme Court order as a major setback to Narendra Modi or to his projection as the party’s key campaigner after L.K. Advani. In fact, the party expects the Gujarat Chief Minister to reverse the fresh attack on him from the Congress and “secular brigade” and work it to his advantage in Gujarat — where he is striving to bag 18-20 seats of the total 26.
In 2004, the BJP had won 14 seats and the Congress 12.
Senior BJP leaders led by Arun Jaitley said various probes over the years by the Gujarat Police, National Human Rights Commission and “this very SIT” had made not even an oblique reference to Modi for any kind of role in the 2002 riots. “There is not a whisper of evidence so far to indict Modi.”
“There is nothing against Modi. No enquiry has named Modi. The SIT has submitted its report with respect to 10 cases to the Supreme Court,” he said.
However, Jaitley saw a pattern in the complaints against Modi. “The case has come up just three days before Gujarat goes to polls in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections,” he said, adding that the Justice Bannerjee fact-finding report on the Godhra train carnage was released two days before the Bihar assembly polls in 2007. Similarly, a contempt case was raked up against Modi in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case at the time of the Gujarat assembly elections in 2007. Modi is good at turning the attacks on him to his advantage, Jaitley said.
Asked if this latest turn of events would affect the BJP’s plans to anoint Modi its future prime ministerial candidate, Jaitley said it was the media that was focusing on him, not the party. “It is your candidate,” he remarked. He said senior party leader Arun Shourie’s off-the-cuff remark that Modi was PM mettle was blown out of proportion.
Jaitley also pointed out that Monday’s development did not merit comparison with the case of Congress’s Jagdish Tytler, whose nomination was cancelled for his alleged role in the 1984 riots. “You cannot compare Modi with Tytler. There were findings against Tytler. Even the Nanavati Commission had said ‘in all probability’ his involvement could not be ruled out, whereas Modi is yet to be indicted by any probe.”