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August 27, 2002

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The Rediff Interview/Narendra Modi

'The BJP is unstoppable'

As the Supreme Court begins hearing the Presidential reference on the Election Commission's controversial order on the Gujarat assembly election, state Chief Minister Narendra Modi is once again in the eye of the storm because of his remarks against Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh.

Modi criticised the CEC for rejecting the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's demand for an early election, and hinted at Lyngdoh's Christian background as a factor influencing his decision.

Six months after the Godhra incident, a confident Modi tells Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt that postponing the election will not prevent his party's return to power.

Mr Modi, it is absolutely clear the investigations into the riot cases are not being done properly. You are hurling figures of arrests made by the police at us but it is of no use when the real culprits of the Naroda Patia, Gulmurg society, Randhikpur and Limadia Chawkdi cases are not arrested.

It would be better if you compare the event of Gujarat and other past events of violence in the country. Compare the events, follow-up investigations, its modus operandi, number of arrests and the chargesheets. Take 25 such cases. After doing a comparison if you think we are deliberately doing something wrong then expose us.

In former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri's murder the chargesheet says he fired on the crowd and two people died. Which, in turn, provoked the mob to set him and others on fire. How can the police interpret an event like this?

Canít you wait? The case will be heard by the courts, right? In this country we do have a justice system. In this country you buy an argument when someone claims that just because a few karsevaks didnít pay the money for the tea they bought, it led to the torching of the # S6 compartment. This is possible and you consider it valid. But when the police investigates the case and puts forward the case, you consider it invalid. Don't you have a biased mind?

All over the world you circulate the e-mail narrating a fictitious event which claims a girl was abducted on the platform, she was raped and that lead to the torching of S6. You can show that within just three minutes all this is possible. For people like you the question should be: Whom do you trust? Now the matter is with the judiciary and an inquiry commission. How long will you continue with a media trial?

I have allowed the media to behave as it wants. The West believes in [Nazi propaganda minister Josef] Goebbels. Speak a lie 100 times and it will become a truth. I am brought up in a civilisation where Satyameva Jayate [Truth always prevails] is taught. I am not worried. The truth will certainly be known.

Socio-political analyst Ashis Nandy met you almost a decade ago. After the meeting he called you a 'textbook fascist.' Many people in the country find your body language quite offensive. The way you ridiculed Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh at a public meeting in Bodeli proves that point.

In the presence of one lakh people I gave a speech. It is on tape. I havenít leveled any allegation against him.

How can you ask a constitutional authority if he is born in Italy or not?

I haven't said it. Hear my speech properly. I quoted people and journalists. They asked me if he is born in Italy. I told them "I don't know." I just narrated that incident in my speech.

Isn't this divisive politics? Where do you want to lead this country?

As far as the BJP is concerned, our belief has been the same for years. Justice to all, appeasement of none. We cannot support divisive politics. We strongly believe in President A P J Abdul Kalam when he says we need 'unity of minds.' People who played the politics of appeasement have ruined the country, not us. Blame them.

Do you think whenever the Gujarat election is held, it will be a very crucial election?

No. I don't believe so. Every election is made out to be a crucial election as if it is a question of life or death. In my life I don't consider any event as the last event. I always believe there is no full stop in life.

The election is delayed, so you will have to wait.

Whenever the election is held, it is no issue with me. It is not an issue to worry about. Let the election come today, in November, let it come in January 2013. The BJP's win in Gujarat is unstoppable.

You should ask people to be remorseful for what happened in Gujarat; instead you talk about the pride of Gujarat.

I have always criticised violence in my speeches but the way the trouble in just two per cent of the area is blown up and used against us should be countered. Arundhati Roy paints Gujaratis as rapists and then goes scot-free by apologising. Isn't it an insult to Gujarat?

What do you make of Shankarsinh Vaghela leading the Congress?

A sinking Congress is banking on a straw. The Congress had no leadership of its own so they have given its top post to a [former] BJP man.

Do you see a Hindutva wave in Gujarat?

Gujaratis have decided to teach a lesson to the merchants of death. They will not allow Gujarat to be taken over by them. Gujarat is a border state and we can't allow the weakening of our security.

Will this election be fought on a Hindutva versus casteist card?

In Gujarat, the poison of casteism was injected in the name of the KHAM [Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims] theory. Gujaratis rejected it and turned towards the unity of society. Casteist forces have been rejected in Gujarat, the people's mood is anti-casteist.

What is the economic scenario in the state after the riots?

After Godhra we received Rs 8,000 crore worth direct foreign investment. General Motors, Shell, British Gas Company...

People who know you well claim you are not really a believer of Hindutva.

We have been taught cultural nationalism. We don't distinguish between Hindu rashtra and Bharat rashtra. I believe no Hindu can be anti-secular. I am secular. We believe God is one, there are different roads that lead to him. But you are not interested in debating Hindutva. Your reference point while talking about Hindutva is communal violence or Imam Bukhari.

The Gujarat riots have damaged our stand on coercive diplomacy.

Absolutely wrong. It has strengthened our stand. What happened in Godhra supports our contention how innocents are being killed ruthlessly. Gujarat has helped India convince the world community how terrorism is damaging us.

I am talking about the riots that followed.

I told you that no civil society can accept this. The innocent Sikh was murdered after 9/11. Why? Because he looked like the terrorists. If the educated in America can get provoked, why use a different yardstick to evaluate Gujaratis?

Part II: 'All of you want a magic wand in Gujarat'

ALSO READ:

The Gujarat Elections 2002
The Gujarat Riots

Design: Dominic Xavier

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