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'Mian Musharraf' in firing line - Pakistan President singing Sonia tune, says Modi

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RADHIKA RAMASESHAN   |   Zanzaraka   |   Published 14.09.02, 12:00 AM

Zanzaraka, Sept. 14: Narendra Modi’s new target is “Mian Musharraf”.

A day after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee countered Pervez Musharraf’s criticism of the Gujarat killings at the UN, the chief minister picked up the cue and converted the Pakistan President’s remarks into an “assault on Gujarati pride”.

Kicking off the second leg of his Gaurav Yatra from this Dalit village, Modi said: “Mian Musharraf’s language is borrowed from the Congress. Both are saying the same thing.”

An hour later in Dhanduka, he amplified the statement in his usual acerbic style: “The songs which Sonia Gandhi and some English TV channels were singing about Gujarat after Godhra have obviously been heard across the border. Now Mian Musharraf is repeating their accusations against me in an international forum.

“Isn’t it strange that Pakistan, which has engineered so much bloodshed in Kashmir and forced its Hindus out, should try to teach me lessons in communal harmony?”

He continued: “Mian Musharraf, the conspiracy to destabilise India was hatched in Pakistan. But you must remember there are many more Muslims in India than in your country where one Islamic sect is always fighting another. At least in India Muslims are able to live in peace.”

Modi’s parting shot to Musharraf was: “When the time comes, the people of Gujarat will give you a fitting answer.”

But the diatribe against Musharraf — an “enemy” far away — struck less of a chord in his listeners than the contempt he poured on someone closer home: Gujarat Congress chief Shankersinh Vaghela.

Taking off from Vaghela’s allegation that the BJP may repeat a Kargil-like situation as the Gujarat polls near, Modi said: “A certain gentleman from the Congress said the Kargil conflict was created by India. Does he even know the country’s geography? Kargil is part and parcel of India and it was set upon by an enemy state. In his zeal to score a political point, this man is actually speaking the language of the enemy.”

He described the Congress as “shameless and anti-social” and accused the party of “compromising with the country’s pride to grab votes”.

Modi’s entry into politically crucial Saurashtra saw a subtle shift in target --- the minorities in the yatra’s first phase. Vajpayee’s disapproval, coupled with the intervention of the National Commission for Minorities, seemed to have chastened him a bit.

The fact that his first stop was a Dalit village also forced a change in that he talked about reservation and social harmony. But whether it was Zanzaraka or Dhanduka or the roadside meetings he addressed in Barvala and Lathidal, the crowd responded primarily to Godhra and what happened after, not Narmada and development.

Modi’s reputation as Muslim-baiter preceded him, so the people neither desired nor expected anything more. Lines like “Congressmen ran with tiffin-carriers filled with chicken biryani to feed the culprits of Godhra after they were thrown into jails” and “Innocents are innocents, whether they were killed in Godhra or elsewhere” had the crowds hanging from trees and balustrades in a frenzy. The underlying motif was “Gujarati asmita and swabhimaan” (Gujarati pride and self-respect).

Modi cited five instances to prove that Gujaratis always got the wrong end of the Opposition’s stick. First was the Surat “plague”. “The self-appointed custodians of administration spread the word that Gujarat was hit by a plague epidemic and people were fleeing. It hit the business. But it turned out it was not plague.”

Next was Narmada. “The andolan was based on the canard that people would be left homeless if the dam was built. But for this campaign we would have got the waters 20 years ago.”

Then came the attack on Christians in south Gujarat by the VHP-Bajrang Dal. “This was a Congress conspiracy to defame the Hindus and at the end of it all, not a single Christian was killed.”

Next the earthquake, and finally, Godhra and its fallout.

“There was not a word of condemnation or sympathy when news of Godhra reached Parliament. But astonishingly the very next day, the place was flooded with waters of human kindness. Such sympathy for those who lost their lives later! If Congressmen gave me five gaalis, they showered another 15 on Gujaratis,” declared Modi.

Maintaining his Gaurav yatra was the “victim” of a similar “disinformation campaign”, he exhorted the crowds to collectively avenge the “insults” in the elections.

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