The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP counts temple strike gains

New Delhi, Sept. 28: Within days of the assault on the Swaminarayan temple, the BJP has started counting its gains. And the assessment is that like Godhra and the carnage that followed, the attack on the Hindu “symbol” will benefit the party electorally.

The “feedback” that the desecration of the Swaminarayan temple had accentuated the Hindu polarisation emboldened the BJP to compliment Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for maintaining harmony. This time round, Modi even got a pat from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The party’s strategy is to pick holes in statements made by Congress leaders and paint them as anti-national. BJP spokesperson and general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi assailed the Congress, saying: “When the entire country is talking of Pakistan’s hand in the terrorist attack on Akshardham, the Congress party is shifting the blame on (the) Modi government and trying to make the issue as Modi versus Musharraf, which is certainly a dangerous political design.”

Setting all speculation at rest, the party today said Modi would lead the BJP in the Gujarat elections, expected around November-December. “Modi will be the chief minister and the polls will be fought under his leadership,” Naqvi said.

But there is still a question mark on whether the Vajpayee camp will countenance Modi, who had gone down in the Prime Minister’s esteem following his rabid anti-minority statements.

The BJP is yet to come up with a strategy to win over former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel. The influential Patel community wants Keshubhai to come back as chief minister and the sulking leader had refused to accompany Modi in his yatras.

Sources said the high command’s directive to Modi to postpone the Gaurav Yatra was a tactical move to consolidate the gains of the latest terrorist attack.

Though a vocal section in the party wants to wrap up the yatra, indications are that the “march” may be resumed sometime in the first week of October or after Dussehra.

Stoutly defending Modi, the party assailed the Congress for blaming the chief minister for the temple attack. The Congress had yesterday alleged that police and civic officials were diverted to provide security to Gaurav Yatra and that is why security at temple was lax. The Congress had also charged the chief minister with transferring “good” and “impartial” officials.

Naqvi hit back at the Congress today. The party is facing a “certain defeat” in the Assembly polls and so the allegations, he said.

“The Congress, out of rage and despair, has started harping on anti-Gujarat and anti-Narendra Modi themes.” The people of Gujarat have rejected Congress attempts to spoil the atmosphere through holding the “Gujarat bandh”, Naqvi added.

The BJP said it is time the global community declared Pakistan a terrorist state, especially after the statement made by President Pervez Musharraf on the terrorist attack on the temple.

“The statement by Musharraf about the terrorist attack on the Akshardham temple is an open confession of terrorist activities being run in India at Pakistan’s behest,” Naqvi said.

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