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Vaghela fast slows down Modi’s rath

Ahmedabad, Sept. 1: Narendra Modi has paused and given right of way to Shankersinh Vaghela in the first round.

The Gujarat chief minister has postponed the Gaurav Yatra from Tuesday to Saturday, faced with a fast by state Congress chief Vaghela tomorrow at the launchpad of the BJP roadshow.

Modi today sent a letter to Vaghela, announcing the unilateral postponement of the Gaurav Yatra to September 7 “in the larger interest of the state’’. The yatra was scheduled to be launched on September 3 from Phagvel, a Vaghela stronghold.

This is the second time in three months that the yatra is being postponed. Originally supposed to be flagged off on July 4 from Ambaji in north Gujarat, the yatra was put off after an uproar prompted the Prime Minister to dissuade Modi

But this time, political factors in the state, not the Centre, have forced the chief minister to change the date.

The Bhathi Sena, a group promoted by the Kshatriyas — Vaghela’s caste — had threatened to disrupt the yatra since it clashed with a programme to pay tribute to a 19th Century crusader against cow slaughter. However, it is not known whether the Sena is still determined to oppose the Modi chariot ride.

Vaghela’s programme in the village, too, aims to appease the majority community. Vaghela is scheduled to hoist a flag at Bhathiji temple, a memorial to the Kshatriya leader who laid down his life for protecting cows.

A showdown would have been difficult to avert had Modi not deferred the yatra. In his letter, Modi expressed his good wishes for the success of Vaghela’s programme but reminded the Congress chief that he had not sought permission. But even if he seeks permission now, it would be granted, he said.

The decision to postpone the yatra — a brainchild of Modi — was taken by the chief minister on his own. He did not consult state BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana and convener of the yatra Jayanti Barot. Both the leaders had claimed in the evening that the yatra would go ahead as scheduled.

Vaghela had written a letter to the Lok Sabha Speaker, accusing the caretaker government of misusing state machinery. He informed the Speaker that he was going on the token fast to protest the misuse of official machinery.

“I am compelled to write this letter to you as I fear that the government is going to misuse its machinery. I have credible information that the BJP government is going to prevent me and my supporters from going to the village,” he wrote. Vaghela requested the Speaker to take necessary steps “to protect my right as a Lok Sabha member”.

The postponement is being seen as a setback to the chief minister but he has taken a moral high ground by declaring that he took the decision in the larger interest of the state and unity of the people.

“I wish all the success for your programme and hope that you will follow the democratic path in the future,” Modi wrote.

Panel in Godhra

The G.T. Nanavati Commission, which is probing the Godhra carnage and the subsequent communal violence, today visited the site of the train massacre and inspected the burnt coach.

The panel also questioned officers of the railway and police. The two-member commission spent two hours in Godhra. The commission also visited a masjid in Signal Falia from where the mob reportedly emerged to attack coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express.

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