| Narendra Modi addresses the rally in Kalol. (Reuters)
Kalol, Sept. 9: Less than 200 yards from where he addressed the public atop his Gaurav rath, riot-affected Muslims had quietly gathered in this communally-sensitive town to voice their protest and remind Narendra Modi of his “monster image”.
As the Gujarat chief minister ended his speech and his rath rolled towards its next destination, the Muslims raised their pitch. “Terrorist Modi go back, killer Modi go back,” they shouted, tearing the pamphlets BJP workers had circulated.
But neither Modi nor any senior BJP leader accompanying him bothered to stop and listen to what the protestors had to say.
“We just do not want to see his (Modi’s) face. He has ruined us,” said an angry Nishar Ahmed. Two Muslim youths were killed during the riots in this town near Gandhinagar and property worth several lakhs of rupees reduced to rubble. Today’s “spontaneous protest” revealed that Muslims are still in no mood to forgive Modi.
The chief minister, who began the second day of his election yatra from Himmatnagar in north Gujarat this morning, addressed four public meetings besides making several unscheduled speeches. Like yesterday, he spewed venom on the Congress for tarnishing the image of Gujarat and hurting “the pride of five crore people”.
Seeking blessings of the people, Modi declared: “The BJP is unstoppable and there is no future for the Congress in the state.” He asked people to give a befitting reply to the Congress, which, he said, had no other agenda but to malign Gujarat and Gujaratis. “It is a real tragedy that the Congress remembers only Naroda Patia and Gulburg,” he told those who had gathered to listen.
But he himself had nothing positive to offer except for a lofty promise — that Narmada waters would reach parched areas of the state. It was this promise that made people of Vijapur weigh him in silver bricks.
Modi did not utter a word of sympathy for those who have lost everything in the riots. He kept his speeches short because of his dry voice and all his fire was reserved for the Congress. Shouldn’t those responsible for the Godhra carnage be punished, he thundered. Shouldn’t those criminals be called communal' Isn’t it a fact that some of them have links with Congress party'
Today, asked about his verbal assault on Sonia Gandhi, Modi showed no sign of regret for calling her “Italy ki beti”. Modi said he had nothing personal against Sonia. “I attacked her because she is a Congress president,” he said. “I called her Italy ki beti, which is a fact. I cannot help it.”
Yesterday, the response from the people of Himmatnagar, who had waited till late in the night to welcome Modi and BJP state unit chief Rajendrasinh Rana, was overwhelming. Today, the yatra looked more like a government-sponsored programme and not only because of the Z-plus security cover given to the chief minister.
While a large police contingent and senior government officials accompanied Modi’s caravan, directives had been issued to all schools on the yatra route to welcome the chief minister. So, everywhere along the route, schoolchildren were seen lined up with BJP flags in their hands.
At Hazol, students of the CMD Shah School, waited for more than an hour. At Vijapur and Mansa, a large number of people turned up to see the Gaurav rath while some jostled to shake Modi’s hands.
Rana, who held fort today because of Modi’s dry voice, also talked about the pride of Gujaratis and the “sins” committed by the Congress.