A Gujarat court stamping its approval on the clean chit given to BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in the 2002 Gulbarg Society case is much more than just a personal boost for him ahead of the 2014 polls and a setback to the Congress and its allies.
The development could also thwart the plans of his BJP rivals to upstage him after election results by seeking an alternative face if numbers don’t cross the half-way mark in Parliament, key party insiders say.
Billed as ‘Plan B’ in BJP circles, its proponents – who are currently lying low – are said to be counting on the party scoring less than the magic figure of 272 to seek allies who won’t back Modi, citing the riots stigma against him.
Read: Modi gets relief in 2002 riots, tweets truth alone triumphs; Zakia Jafri says won't give up
But with Modi in the clear, their efforts may not now bear fruit, say those backing the Gujarat CM. Even the Centre’s decision to probe “Snoopgate” won’t help his rivals, BJP strategists say.
On Thursday, the Ahmedabad court rejected a petition against Modi filed by Zakia Jafri, whose husband Ehsan Jafri was burnt alive during the riots, and reinforced the closure report of a Supreme-Court-appointed SIT that had found no prosecutable evidence against Modi.
Timeline: Zakia Jafri vs Modi in 2002 Gujarat riots case
BJP chief Rajnath Singh said: "Modi is our PM candidate and there is no controversy surrounding him. We were always confident that he is totally clean and today’s ruling has proved it...we had expected the judgement.” He added: “This verdict is on the expected lines and vindicates our stand that the campaign against Modiji is politically motivated.”
Arun Jaitley, leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha who is close to Modi, was more elaborate: “Modi goes into the 2014 campaign untainted by propaganda. The verdict has proved that propaganda can never be a substitute for truth.”
He said the popular sanction for Modi has been buttressed by the judicial verdict, which has accepted his exoneration by SIT. “The Congress and its sponsored NGOs are unable to fight Modi politically. They used falsehood in court but failed. Truth has prevailed. The conspiracy and falsehood to implicate Modi in an offence stands exposed.”
Read: Jafri family mulls legal options, BJP accuses Cong of 'falsehood'
Jaitley prefaced his reaction thus: “The 2002 riots are a painful chapter in recent Indian history. Regrettably, the Modi government was charged with the conspiracy behind the riots. The truth is otherwise.”