Ahmedabad: Fighting hard to remove the taint of 2002 violence, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Saturday began a three-day fast for peace and communal harmony vowing to end votebank politics but said nothing directly by way of regret for the post-Godhra carnage.
Buoyed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to pass any order against him in the Ehsan Jafri murder case and words of praise from a US Congressional report, Modi sat on fast on his birthday in the air-conditioned Gujarat University Convention Centre flanked by top BJP and allied party leaders.
“I had said at that time (2002) these riots should not have happened in a civilized society. At that time I had felt the pain and now also I am feeling the pain,” he said in his speech to an audience that had a sprinkling of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs among others.
Often attacked for his alleged complicity in the violence that shook Gujarat after the Sabarmati Express carnage, Modi did not directly offer any regret or apology but said that he wanted to ensure that Gujarat never slips below parameters of humanity.
Modi marked his 62nd birthday by taking blessings from his mother before beginning the fast, which was countered by Shankarsinh Vaghela who staged a hunger strike on a footpath near Sabarmati Ashram near Gandhinagar in the company of Congress leaders and workers.
Top BJP leaders L. K. Advani, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Muktar Abbas Naqvi and Rajiv Pratap Rudy were on the stage along with Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, AIADMK leaders M. Thambidurai and V. Maitreyan. But BJP’s longtime ally JD(U) was conspicuous by its absence.
“We want to move together and sadhbhavna (harmony) will be our strength. Development is our only motto. We will be a model for the world on how development can be achieved with peace, harmony and brotherhood,” Modi said.
Speaking about the fast, he said “It was the need of the hour.”
“Unity, peace and harmony have a major role to play in our success, our development. Because we have treaded this path and I wanted this message to reach out to people, this fast was the best mean to do so,” he maintained.
“Six crore Gujaratis have gone through a lot of penance to ensure such a situation. If I fast my words would carry more weight and I will be able to reach out to more people.”
This was the only objective behind the fast and there was no grudge against anybody, he said.
“Over the last 10 years we have been vilified. I have faced every attack so that you (people) do not feel the pain. I want to ensure that Gujarat never slips below the parameters of humanity,” Modi said.
He sought strength from God so he is able to dedicate his entire life to the people of Gujarat.
“May God give me strength to not to have any bitterness or vengeance ever for anyone,” Modi said.
The chief minister said today the entire country and the world was discussing the development in Gujarat be it in industrial, agricultural, rural, education or in health sector.