The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Modi finds his way through Godhra’s line of control

Ahmedabad, Nov. 8: If the LoC can open in divided Kashmir, the line of control can crack in Gujarat, too.

“Mini Pakistan” is making space for Narendra Modi to step in, even preparing to felicitate him. This is Signal Falia in Godhra, where the burning of a coach of Sabarmati Express triggered the Gujarat riots in 2002.

Eighteen newly elected councillors of the minority community in Godhra have pledged unconditional support to the BJP, though the party did not need it.

A liberal minority leader and businessman, Firdos Kothi, is the force behind this dramatic move. He said: “We felt that to shed the devilish image that the minorities in Godhra have acquired we need to send a message that we are changing and that we are not fanatics who cannot do business with the Hindus.”

At the time of the train burning and in its aftermath, forget the BJP, even police were wary of entering Signal Falia, branded “mini Pakistan”.

Pakistan is no longer what it used to be and Narendra Modi, the chief minister, also appears to be not what he once was.

Source close to the chief minister said Modi had been sending feelers to Kothi, realising that Gujarat cannot fully develop without the minorities being a part of the process of growth.

One other equation has changed, too, since 2002. Feted by the Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad after the Gujarat riots, Modi is now under attack from the same quarters.

In the new circumstances, if Lal Krishna Advani can begin to push the line that the BJP could not hope to grow if it did not win over the minorities, there is no reason to believe Modi also cannot come round to this view.

Some are calling it a marriage of convenience, but as Kothi explained: “After the Godhra incident, there was no development work in minority areas.

“In some areas, power supply was disconnected, roads were bad, garbage had piled up, water supply was irregular as most of the minority councillors were languishing in jail and the community had no say in civic affairs.”

Mohammed Kalota, former president of the Godhra municipality who is a prime accused in the train burning, is in jail along with over 100 others, all facing charges under the anti-terror act.

“What we really want is peace and development and that is what we are striving for,” Kothi said.

Which may be why the support is unconditional. Initially, a local BJP leader had promised the minority councillors that one of them would get the post of vice-president and six others would be appointed chairmen of various committees.

The deal did not find acceptance among hardliners like Godhra MLA and former Bajrang Dal state president Haresh Bhatta who was willing to welcome the minority councillors, but only if they offered unconditional support.

The minority councillors did not insist on the post of vice-president as they had already made up their mind to support the BJP.

What have they received in return' “Unconditional development” for “unconditional support”, said Bhatta.

Kothi plans to meet Modi soon and invite him to Godhra to felicitate him.

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