A day ahead of the first phase of polling in Gujarat, Narendra Modi created a flutter by writing to the Prime Minister, saying he had come to know that India planned to hand over Sir Creek to Pakistan on December 15 and urging the government not to go ahead with it.
Within hours, the Prime Minister’s office strongly refuted the chief minister’s allegations and questioned his timing and motive.
“The contents of the letter and the timing of its release to the public, even before it was formally received in this office, raise questions about the motive behind its issue. The writing and release of this baseless letter by the Gujarat CM in his personal capacity a day before elections in the state is mischievous,” the PMO statement read. “It also seems Modi has written the letter without making any effort to ascertain the facts from the government of India.”
Modi wrote: “I was told a decision is being taken on December 15... any attempt to hand over Sir Creek to Pakistan would be a strategic blunder… the 1965 war began in the Rann of Kutch where Sir Creek lies.”
“Stop this dialogue with Pakistan. It is a major threat to the safety and security of the people of Gujarat,” he wrote, as a “concerned and responsible citizen”.
He appeared to have timed his letter with Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik's visit to Delhi from December 14. Officials in the Capital said Malik was coming to launch a new visa regime. Nevertheless, Sir Creek — a 96-km strip of water in the Rann of Kutch marshlands, notorious for illegal crossings and smuggling of narcotics and arms — is an issue where both sides believe an early pact is possible.
In Ahmedabad, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said Modi was right to be concerned. "If Sir creek is given away, Gujarat will be completely exposed to Pakistan's borders."
But a top Congress leader countered: "Modi will be campaigning on Thursday in Kutch, where his party is in a weak position. So, he wants to create an emotive issue."
Eighty-seven assembly segments of Saurashtra, four seats of Ahmedabad district and south Gujarat go to polls in Phase 1. With 48 seats in Saurashtra, the ruling BJP is facing multiple forces, including an aggressive Congress, Keshubhai Patel's Gujarat Parivartan Party and Leuva Patels, a loyal votebank of the party that is now furious with the Modi regime.