The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cautious, but keen on probe

New Delhi, July 15: Manmohan Singh is reportedly keen that the probe Laloo Prasad Yadav has ordered into the Godhra train-burning be “unbiased” and not attempt to score political points.

Government sources said the Prime Minister feels that “whatever we do in Gujarat should not create a partisan atmosphere”.

Singh’s concern stems from the BJP’s veiled threat that the inquiry ordered by the railway minister could lead to a nationwide communal “flare-up”.

A section of the Congress is also believed to be against raising the pitch on Godhra since Maharashtra elections are round the corner and it fears the BJP is out to polarise polity. The Congress’ ally, the Nationalist Congress Party, shares its anxiety.

Even so, Singh understands the importance of “acting decisively” on Gujarat since it was an important part of the Congress’ campaign during the Lok Sabha elections.

A team of Gujarat Congress MPs and MLAs met the Prime Minister this morning and demanded that the Nanavati inquiry commission set up by Narendra Modi be replaced. They said a CID official investigating the post-Godhra carnage was himself involved.

BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said: “It (the probe) is a well-planned move to cause instability and unrest in Gujarat. It is aimed at vitiating the peaceful atmosphere in the state and generating communal frenzy. It is the hackneyed Congress technique to garner votes for which they can go to any extent.”

Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma supported the railway ministry probe and dismissed the BJP’s threat as a manifestation of its unwillingness to “digest the electoral defeat”.

But some of his colleagues felt that while the move would help Laloo Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal consolidate Muslim votes in next year’s Bihar elections, it could cost the Congress Hindu support in Maharashtra. The western state has seen nearly 50 religious clashes during the time the Congress-NCP combine has been in power.

Some Congress MPs said Laloo Prasad may have “purged” Bihar of the “communal poison” by playing the caste card and dividing the Hindu vote, but the Congress-NCP had to juggle caste interests and the Hindu “identity” in Maharashtra which borders Gujarat.

The BJP has tried to put the Congress on the defensive over its support for Ishrat Raza, the Mumbai girl killed last month along with three suspected terrorists trying to assassinate Gujarat chief minister Modi.

The Gujarat BJP today demanded “legal action” against the Congress for siding with terrorists, a day after the Lashkar-e-Toiba claimed Ishrat was a member.

Gujarat government spokesman I.D. Jadeja said in Ahmedabad: “Legal action must be taken against the Congress and its allies and all those who sided with such terrorists by providing financial aid to Ishrat’s family.”

The BJP has said it will make the Congress’ support for Ishrat, whose funeral caused emotions on both sides of the religious divide to run high, an election issue in Maharashtra.

The BJP has objected to the new Godhra probe, saying it was “illegal” since the Nanavati commission is about to submit its report and the Supreme Court is hearing a number of Gujarat carnage cases.

But a senior Congress leader countered: “If the terms of reference of the Nanavati commission don’t cover what the railway ministry is setting out to do, what’s the problem'”

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