Shadows of post-Godhra violence followed Narendra Modi even in 2011

Looking back: Gujarat

For Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the year gone by has mixed memories. Though the most popular BJP Chief Minister had brought the year to a close with the masterful plan to shed his image as a hardline leader, the ghosts of Godhra riots haunted him through the tortuous months of 2011.

Modi’s troubles began in February when one of the IPS officers in Gujarat, Sanjiv Bhatt, filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging Modi’s complicity in the post-Godhra riots in which a large number of Muslims were slaughtered by rioters.

The most significant reprieve for the chief minister came when the apex court failed to pass an order on the petition filed by Zakiya Jafri, whose husband and former Congress MP was lynched in the riots, accused Modi of having a hand in the violence.

The court had referred the case to the lower court for appropriate ruling. Even as many debated if the judgement meant that Modi was effectively innocent on one of the most serious blot on his leadership, the chief minister himself had no doubts about it.
He also went ahead and announced the Sadhbhavna mission which aimed for inclusive development in Gujarat.

He had been issuing statement to the “people of the state” that 2002 was a bad year in its history, suggesting that he was finally making efforts to mend fences with the minorities who view him as an extremist leader.

If there were suspicions that Modi, with backing from his party, was carefully working on an image makeover for the national role, those were confirmed when the chief minister sat on a three day fast on Sadhbavna before the prying television cameras.

With national leaders and BJP allies visiting him throughout the three day fast, the message to the rivals was very clear: that the party is rallying behind its “secular leader”.
   Even this carefully crafted campaign had its moments of controversy, as Modi was shown returning the skull cap gifted to him by a Muslim man. Despite this, the idea of inclusive development was taken to all districts, with the party drafting in famous personalities such as cricketer Irfan Pathan, who greeted him during his Sadhbavna mission in Vadodara.

 Meanwhile, Bhatt, who was suspended from the state police force, tried to back his claims on the CM’s alleged complicity before the Commission after a series of  affidavits.  So while Modi tries to portray himself as the best chief minister in the country, it remains to be seen to what extent people of his own state would buy that, as Gujarat goes to polls next year.

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