The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Second thoughts on Modi tapes

New Delhi, Sept. 22: The controversial Modi tapes have put the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) in a bind.

Amid reports that hardliners in the Sangh parivar feel that the controversy will deepen the perceived polarisation in Gujarat, the commission is thinking whether to insist on seeing the tapes.

The commission is expected to take a decision on Monday whether to haul up chief minister Narendra Modi over the tapes which carry inflammatory statements against the minority community.

When the chief minister’s speeches ignited an uproar, Modi as well as the BJP disowned the statements and said they were misquoted.

But a private television channel aired the tape, after which the minorities commission wrote to the Gujarat administration demanding the tapes.

Sources said there is a view in the commission that it should bury the case as a lingering controversy will only benefit Modi and those who are banking on polarisation of voters.

“Not a single Muslim leader from Gujarat or Congress leader Shankar Sinh Vaghela has talked about the tapes. Some Delhi-based Opposition leaders and media persons are talking about it. Vaghela, like the Sangh parivar leaders, knows that overplaying the Modi remarks will only help Modi,” said a commission source.

The commission said it was awaiting the copies of the tapes. “We have issued a notice to the state government asking them to send us a copy of the taped speech of Modi. We think the state government might submit the tapes in the next few days,” commission chairman Mohammed Shamim said.

Asked how long the NCM, which issued the notice last week, will wait, Shamim said: “The notice has gone from one department to another. It will take time before the tapes come.”

On a report that the Gujarat state home department had refused to hand over the tapes, Shamim said: “No official communication to this effect has been received by the commission from Gujarat government.”

Modi and state officials have distanced themselves from the controversial comments but parivar hawks are learnt to be planning to distribute 25,000 copies of the tapes to further polarise Hindu voters.

RSS sources said the parivar is divided on the impact of Modi’s speeches. While one camp believes that they would help the BJP in the Gujarat elections, another feels that they would produce only a backlash.

“The controversy may help the BJP only in Gujarat. In the rest of the country, there is revulsion among a silent, but vast section, of Hindus about the campaigning by Modi,” an RSS source said.

Asked if the VHP would make use of the tapes to polarise votes in favour of the BJP, parishad spokesperson Veereshwar Dwivedi said: “I am not in touch with the state leaders. I have not heard the tapes. What Modi said is okay but not the manner in which he said it.”

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