The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Apology cuts little ice

Ahmedabad, Aug. 24: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s apology in London for the Gujarat riots and his statement that they were a blot on the government have stunned Narendra Modi and his supporters, but the Congress is sceptical about his sincerity.

Claiming the drastic turnaround — Advani has so far backed chief minister Modi and sought to justify the riots as a reaction to the Godhra carnage — was meant for the international audience, the Congress said: “If the deputy Prime Minister is really sincere, he should come to Gujarat and apologise.”

VHP leaders and senior ministers in Modi’s Cabinet feigned ignorance about Advani’s statement. But BJP Gujarat chief Rajendrasinh Rana toed the line, saying what happened was unfortunate and the party was really sorry. “We endorse what Advani has said in London,” he said, but dodged queries on what sparked the sudden change in stance.

Asked if the BJP would apologise for the riots, Rana said: “If there is a consensus, we may do so. We have yet to discuss it in the party forum.”

A sceptical Gujarat Congress chief Shankersinh Vaghela, however, brushed off Advani’s statement. “It only reflects the party’s character which has three faces — international, national and regional. In Gujarat, they justify the communal violence and in London they say ‘it is indefensible’ and a ‘blot’. If Advani is really sorry, let him say so in Gujarat,” he said.

Minority leaders are also not buying Advani’s statement. “It makes no sense to apologise before the international community. If Advani is sincere, he should visit Naroda Patia, Danilimada, some of the worst riot-hit areas (which he has not visited yet) that fall under his parliamentary constituency,” Safibhai Memon said. “Just an apology will not work. The deputy Prime Minister should ensure that the guilty are punished and all riot-affected rehabilitated,” he added.

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