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Modi counters Best Bakery with Shahbano

Stung by Sonia's reference to SC's comments on his govt, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi is hitting back with another apex court verdict.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Idar (gujarat)
PUBLISHED ON APR 16, 2004 08:04 PM IST

Stung by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's reference to the Supreme Court's recent comments on his government, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is hitting back with another apex court verdict that her party had brushed aside.

Modi is countering Sonia Gandhi's campaign -- citing the recent Supreme Court verdict ordering a retrial outside Gujarat of the Best Bakery massacre accused -- by going back 18 years.

In 1986, the Supreme Court had ruled that Shah Bano, a 65-year-old Muslim woman, should get maintenance under the Criminal Procedure Code, bypassing the Muslim personal law. However, in the furore that followed, the Rajiv Gandhi government passed the Muslim Women's Bill effectively negating the Supreme Court.

And that has given Modi enough grist to his campaign mill as he tours through four Congress strongholds in the state on a three-day 'Kesariya rally', or saffron tour, that began Thursday.

Addressing a rally in Idar, 110 km from here, Modi said: "The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Shah Bano, a poor, illiterate Muslim lady. But the then prime minister late Rajiv Gandhi threw the judgement in the dustbin.

"I ask Sonia Gandhi, if you have so much faith in the Supreme Court, do you intend to apologise for your late husband's sin?"

However, he steered clear of making any direct reference to the Best Bakery case, one of the worst massacres during the 2002 sectarian violence in Gujarat.

Continuing his diatribe against the Italy-born Gandhi, who visited the state Tuesday and welcomed the Best Bakery verdict, Modi said: "I challenged her a month ago to sing Vande Mataram. She was in Gujarat this week. I thought she would have done her homework, but no, she failed. She can't recite our national song."

In what has become a trademark of all his rallies, Modi asked why Gandhi had taken 16 years to apply for Indian citizenship.

He also spoke about the tandoor murder case in New Delhi, in which a Youth Congress leader was convicted of murdering his wife and disposing of her body in the clay ovens of a restaurant.

"That is the Congress culture. Sonia is a woman, she should be more sensitive to women's dignity. But she did not even make one statement against Sushil Sharma, the convicted Congress leader," he said.

"It was this Congress culture which helped them forget the dreams of our freedom fighters. The Congress ruined this country in 45 years of rule," he said.

Modi's saffron campaign, his last round of campaigning before elections in the state on April 20, is passing through Sabarkantha, Patan, Kheda and Kapadvanj -- which the Congress won in the last elections.

Sonia-bashing has been a regular feature of all his rallies.

It was at a public rally in Patan, as part of Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani's tour campaign, that Modi had launched his diatribe against Gandhi and her son Rahul, calling the latter a "hybrid calf".

In 1999, of the 26 Lok Sabha seats from the state, the BJP won 20 and the Congress six.

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