Nov. 10: When Narendra Modi rolls into Godhra tomorrow, J.M. Lyngdoh will not be too far away.
The chief election commissioner will then be listening to a cross-section of people in Ahmedabad and, possibly, to what Modi will say in Godhra as the chief minister’s Gaurav Yatra enters its most sensitive phase.
The ninth phase of Modi’s controversial yatra, which had seen him delivering some of the most inflammatory speeches in his political career, will begin from Dakor in central Gujarat and pass in the afternoon through Godhra town, the site of the carnage on February 27.
With Lyngdoh — who has warned politicians not to make “communal speeches” — around, Modi is unlikely to stoke the embers.
Modi is expected to conclude his programme on November 12 and leave the field clear for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to kick off its own yatra.
The parishad is understood to have decided to shift to Godhra the venue for the launch of its yatra. The VHP yatra was originally scheduled to begin from Akshardham, where militants gunned down over 30 people in September.
The change of venue is another indication that the Sangh parivar and affiliates will make Godhra the main plank of the Assembly elections in Gujarat.
If any doubts were lingering, they were removed by BJP national general secretary and Gujarat in-charge Arun Jaitley. He said in Ahmedabad that Godhra would determine the outcome of the polls.
Jaitley, however, gave a positive spin to the issue, saying the people would judge how Modi has tackled situations like Godhra and Akshardham.
Opposition leaders in Delhi were sceptical whether Modi would restrain himself in Godhra despite the presence of Lyngdoh in Ahmedabad.
“He will still try to use the situation. Lyngdoh is trying his best. But Modi may just narrate what happened in Godhra. From what I understand that cannot be construed as communal campaign,” said CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan.
In a television interview a few days ago, Lyngdoh had cautioned those making communal statements and said they should be prosecuted under the law.
In Ahmedabad, Lyngdoh and the two election commissioners will meet representatives of political parties and NGOs and prominent citizens. The panel may also spare time for any individual who petitions the commission for a hearing.
The commissioners will replay in Gujarat the exercise they undertook on the eve of polls in Jammu and Kashmir when they spoke to several people, officials and parties. The commission visited Jammu and Kashmir a number of times — listened to the complaints of the candidates and took action wherever necessary.
The commission’s last visit to Gujarat August had pitted the institution, particularly its head, against Modi. The chief election commissioner’s refusal to advance the Assembly polls had ruffled feathers in the BJP as well as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.