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Second round of questioning to last for 2 hours

Last updated on: March 27, 2010 21:19 IST

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi returned to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team's office at 9 pm for a second session of questioning on Saturday. Modi is expected to be questioned for another two hours.

Earlier in the day, Modi was questioned for five hours by the SIT on his alleged role in the Gujarat riots. This is the first time he was probed since the carnage eight years ago.

The questioning had remained inconclusive and Modi was called again in the night.

"I am taking a break from questioning" a smiling 59-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party leader told journalists putting up a brave face, as he emerged out of the Special Investigation Team office at the old state secretariat building in Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad.

SIT Chief R K Raghavan was not present at his office when Modi appeared in response to the panel's summons. The SIT's second-in-command A K Malhotra and a former Central Bureau of Investigation deputy inspector general questioned the chief minister.

Modi suffered the ignominy of being the first-ever chief minister of any state to be questioned in a criminal complaint of mass murder after he and his administration were accused of aiding and abetting riots in one area in Ahmedabad.

Ending the suspense as to where and when he would appear after he was summoned for questioning in connection with a complaint of Zakia Jaffery, widow of former Congress Member of Parliament Eshan Jaffery, Modi reached the SIT office around noon on Saturday.

Jaffery was killed in the riots in Gulbarg society in 2002 along with 69 others.

The complaint among other things alleged there was a wider conspiracy by Modi and his administration and that he had instructed officers not to take action.

"My appearance here is a "kara jawab"  (fitting reply) to my detractors. I have given a resounding reply to those who doubted my intentions. I hope such talks by vested interests will stop," Modi said.

Modi injected some humour in his interaction with waiting reporters saying he has come to give them "some masala".

When asked whether he was given tea, he tried to impress the media corps saying he had made arrangements for beverages to be served to them.

He also said that he wanted to given some time to the SIT to do some "homework" before the resumption of questioning.

Attempting to take a high moral ground, Modi said the SIT probe is impartial and does not have any Gujarat officer.

Modi claimed he had answered all questions put by the SIT and that he would prefer questioning to end in one day.

"Vistar se batcheet ki (we spoke in detail)," he said adding, "Under the Indian constitution, law is supreme. As a common man, CM, I am bound by the Indian constitution and law."

Modi said he had received a letter from SIT asking him to "meet" the panel on March 27.

The chief minister said he wants to fully cooperate with the SIT.

"I have given them my date and let them (or us) make full use of it," he said.

"The SIT was created by the Supreme Court. None of the SIT investigators, who questioned me, are from Gujarat. They are selected by the Supreme Court..." he added.

Elaborate security arrangements were made at the SIT office for the deposition of the chief minister where a large crew of media persons had assembled since morning.

Clad in a crisp white kurta and pyjama, Modi greeted the waiting media persons with folded hands after alighting from  his car before proceeding to the SIT building.

The BJP stood strongly behind Modi hailing his deposition as a political victory and one deserving the highest commendation.

"By appearing before SIT, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has demolished all mischievous speculation and scored a political victory. The BJP has great faith in the chief minister of Gujarat. This graceful action vindicates the BJP stand that the chief minister of Gujarat has the highest respect for law of the land," party spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

"The dignified action deserves the highest commendation and millions of BJP workers repose highest faith in his leadership," he added.

Newly appointed BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman denied suggestions that Modi's appearance before the probe panel was an embarrassment for the party.

Social activist and a Modi baiter Teesta Setalvald said," Today is an important day for democracy and rule of law when a sitting chief minister has been forced to appear before an inquiry team after various attempts to block justice."

Gujarat Government Spokesman Jai Narayan Vyas dismissed suggestions of a setback to Modi following his appearance before the SIT.

"We have always said that he will abide by rule of law but much hype is being made. There is no setback as far as BJP government or Modi is concerned. Mr Modi is cooperating," he said.

Modi's appearance before the SIT assumes significance, as he is a serving chief minister who is being questioned before any authority in connection with the 2002 riots.

Today's event was preceded by drama after Modi refused to appear on March 21 calling as false claim that the SIT had fixed that day for questioning him in connection with the 2002 riots.
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