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CM quashes 2002 ‘pardon’

- Nitish dart at Modi: what happened can’t be forgotten

Patna, Jan. 20: Nitish Kumar today made his most pointed reference yet to the Gujarat riots, saying what happened in the western state in 2002 — with Narendra Modi at the helm of government as chief minister — cannot be “forgotten or pardoned”.

“You may say anything lekin Gujarat mein jo hua use bhula nahin ja sakta...kabhi bhi mafi nahin mil sakti, what happened in Gujarat cannot be forgotten or pardoned,” Nitish said at his weekly interaction with reporters.

Nitish was asked for his comment on actor Salman Khan’s “clean chit” to Modi over the Gujarat riots. Salman, who was in Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad on Makar Sankranti and flew kites with the Gujarat chief minister, had said Modi need not seek any pardon for the riots as he had been cleared by the courts.

Nitish, who is trying to hold on to his support among Muslims, sought to portray Modi as the “villain” of the piece. “The 2002 riots in Gujarat can never be forgotten,” he reiterated. “There can never be any pardon for what happened in Gujarat in 2002.”

Nitish broke with the BJP, his ally for 17 years, in June last year soon after Modi was elevated as the party’s campaign committee chief.

For Nitish, it is imperative that he retains his support among the Muslims — who form about 16 per cent of the electorate. But with Lalu Prasad out on bail and campaigning aggressively by questioning Nitish’s “secular credentials”, there is a fear in the Janata Dal (United) camp that Muslims could switch to the RJD, more so if its leader succeeds in stitching together an alliance, or at least an electoral arrangement, with the Congress.

With his trenchant remarks today, the Bihar chief minister has tried to match the fire and brimstone that Lalu displays while attacking Modi in particular and “communal forces (read BJP)” in general.

Insiders in the JD(U) believe that by matching Lalu in “vitriolic” words against Modi, Nitish will emerge “more dear” to secular forces — particularly the Left, which is apparently seeing an ally in Nitish in Bihar.

Bullet trains: Nitish also ridiculed Modi’s promise to create a corridor of bullet trains across India.

“An attempt was made during my time as railway minister to run a bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. We thought of raising the speed of the trains to 180km per hour. Running bullet trains requires a lot of land, which will be difficult to acquire,” he said.