Modi’s entry into politically crucial Saurashtra saw a subtle shift in target — the minorities in the yatra’s first phase. Vajpayee’s disapproval, coupled with the intervention of the National Commission for Minorities, seemed to have chastened him a bit.
That his first stop was a Dalit village also forced a change — Modi talked about reservation and social harmony. But whether it was Zanzaraka or Dhanduka or the roadside meetings he addressed in Barvala and Lathidal, the crowd responded primarily to Godhra and what happened after, not Narmada and development.
Modi’s reputation as Muslim-baiter preceded him, so the people neither desired nor expected anything more.
Lines like “Congressmen ran with tiffin-carriers filled with chicken biryani to feed the culprits of Godhra after they were thrown into jails” and “Innocents are innocents, whether they were killed in Godhra or elsewhere” had the crowds hanging from trees and balustrades in a frenzy.
The underlying motif was “Gujarati asmita and swabhimaan” (Gujarati pride and self-respect).
Modi cited five instances to prove that Gujaratis always got the wrong end of the Opposition’s stick. First was the Surat “plague”.
“The self-appointed custodians of administration spread the word that Gujarat was hit by a plague epidemic and people were fleeing. It hit business. But it turned out it was not plague.”
Next was Narmada. “The andolan was based on the canard that people would be left homeless if the dam was built. But for this campaign we would have got the waters 20 years ago.”
Then came the attack on Christians in south Gujarat by the VHP-Bajrang Dal. “This was a Congress conspiracy to defame the Hindus and at the end of it all, not a single Christian was killed.”
Next the earthquake, and, finally, Godhra and its fallout.
“There was not a word of condemnation or sympathy when news of Godhra reached Parliament. But astonishingly the very next day, the place was flooded with the waters of human kindness. Such sympathy for those who lost their lives later! If Congressmen gave me five gaalis, they showered another 15 on Gujaratis,” declared Modi.
Maintaining that his Gaurav Yatra was the “victim” of a similar “disinformation campaign”, he exhorted the crowds to collectively avenge the “insults” in the elections.