For the rest of India, the 2002 communal riots had left a blot on the record of chief minister Narendra Modi. Gujarat thought otherwise.
His government had been accused of abetment and the state police had been accused of partiality in investigating the riots. But that December, he returned to power with a thumping majority in the assembly polls.
On Monday, as a guilty verdict came in for the second major post-Godhra riots case, the Modi government, which, had attacked "five-star NGOs and activists" championing the cause of riots victims, welcomed it.Government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas said, "This verdict should silence those who have raised doubts about the impartiality and integrity of Gujarat police and the SIT. This is also a slap for those who don’t miss a single opportunity to defame Gujarat."
The government’s volte face has a simple explanation, according to leading sociologist Shiv Visvanathan.
"In 2002, Modi wanted to be seen as Hindu hriday samrat," he said. "Now the scenario has changed and Modi wants to been as the ‘development man’ who is above politics and communalism."
Former Gujarat chief minister Suresh Mehta, who quit BJP owing to differences with Modi, also explains it as politics of expediency.
"Modi used the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and other outfits and then dumped them after winning the assembly polls," said Mehta. "Now he will tell the world that he is ensuring justice to those who suffered even though justice is happening because of the apex court's constant monitoring of the riots cases."
"Modi has moved beyond 2002," said a BJP legislator who does not wish to be identified. "His politics is not based on riots. The 2002 riots may have happened under his government but he had nothing to do with it. No such issue created by vested interests would affect Modi or his government."