Relief for Modi

The Ahmedabad trial court’s clean chit to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi comes as a big relief to him and the Bharatiya Janata Party whose prime ministerial candidate he is for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The rejection of the protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri, whose husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was burnt alive along with 68 others in the Gulberg housing society massacre in February, 2002, can be termed as a morale booster for Modi and his party since there are no pending cases relating to the Gujarat communal bloodbath in which an estimated over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

Zakia Jafri, who has been waging a legal battle against the chief minister for nearly a decade, has the option of approaching the Gujarat high court against the trial court ruling which has chosen to concur with the report of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team. The SIT had found no evidence against Modi and others in Gulberg carnage. It remains to be seen if the ruling, which comes a year after his resounding third successive election triumph as chief minister, will be politically beneficial to him in the run up to the elections in terms of attracting new allies who have stayed away from him because of the shadow of Gujarat riots that he carries. Soon after the judgment, Modi has also spoken of ‘pain’ and ‘anguish’ he suffered over the 2002 riots -- though he stopped short of offering an apology -- which may help him in winning new friends.

It was a mixed fortune for Modi on Thursday as on the same day, the Congress-ruled Centre decided to set up a Commission of Inquiry to probe into snooping allegations against the Gujarat government. The BJP has taken strong exception to the contentious issue as the state government has already appointed a judicial probe into the incident in which the administration, particularly then home minister Amit Shah, had allegedly misused the government machinery to eves-drop and stalk a woman architect.

It may prove to be a politically counter-productive move. Even in the Gulberg case, SIT and the apex court-appointed amicus curiae had given contrasting reports based on the same set of evidences. For Modi, the Ahmedabad magistrate ruling came days after his confidant  Amit Shah was cleared by the CBI as the agency did not find any ‘prosecutable evidence’ against him in the sensitive Ishrat Jehan fake encounter case.  

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