Modi's puppy analogy on 2002 Gujarat violence kicks up political storm

File photo of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
File photo of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, seen by many as a Prime Ministerial aspirant in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, today found himself at the centre of a major political storm for remarks he made in an interview to news agency Reuters about the 2002 post-Godhra violence in the state.
Asked if he regretted what had happened in the state, where more than a thousand people, mainly Muslims, were killed in several days of violence that followed the February 27 Godhra train fire, he said that the Special Investigation Team (SIT), set up by the Supreme Court to investigate the 2002 cases, had given him a clean chit.
"That report came. In that report, I was given a thoroughly clean chit, a thoroughly clean chit," he said.
"Another thing, any person if we are driving a car, we are a driver, and someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad," he went on to say.
Asked if his government should have responded differently, Mr Modi, 62, who has been accused of failing to stem the violence, said, "Up till now, we feel that we used our full strength to set out to do the right thing."
To a further question about whether he thought he had done the right thing in 2002, he responded, "Absolutely. However much brainpower the Supreme Being has given us, however much experience I’ve got, and whatever I had available in that situation and this is what the SIT had investigated."
Mr Modi, who has recently been appointed as the chairman of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) campaign committee for the 2014 elections, has scarcely hidden his Prime Ministerial ambitions.
Asked if he is a Hindu nationalist leader or a pro-business Chief Minister, he said, "I’m nationalist. I’m patriotic. Nothing is wrong. I’m a born Hindu. Nothing is wrong. So, I’m a Hindu nationalist so yes, you can say I’m a Hindu nationalist because I’m a born Hindu. I’m patriotic so nothing is wrong in it. As far as progressive, development-oriented, workaholic, whatever they say, this is what they are saying. So there’s no contradiction between the two. It’s one and the same image."
His remarks, especially the "puppy" analogy, evoked strong reactions from the Congress and several other political parties, including the Samajwadi Party, the Left parties and the Janata Dal (United), its ally till recently.
Reacting to the criticisim, Mr Modi posted a "tweet" on micro-blogging site Twitter: "In our culture every form of life is valued & worshipped. My original interview with Reuters  ...People are best judge."
The Congress said the remarks reflected Mr Modi's "perverse mindset" and were "totally against the idea of India".
"Thousands of people lost their lives in the 2002 riots and in this backdrop the analogy used by Narendra Modi needs to be strongly condemned. There is no place for such a comparison in civilized India," Mr Ajay Maken, head of the Congress's communications department, said.
People must read Modi's interview before misinterpreting: BJP
Samajwadi Party spokesman Kamal Farooqui said, "It is a very sad, very humiliating and very disturbing statement.
He said Mr Modi should apologise and feel ashamed for using such language.
CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat said, "The expression of regret just doesn’t come to Modi....There is something wrong fundamentally what he is saying.”
CPI leader D. Raja said Mr. Modi’s remarks were a “desperate attempt to deceive people and hoodwink the Indian masses.”
Mr Shivanand Tiwari of the JD(U) said Mr Modi needed to undergo "psycho-analysis" and felt it would be a "very dangerous situation if such a person becomes the country's Prime Minister.”
The BJP, however, defended Mr Modi and said he had been grossly misinterpreted, leading to a "controversy where it does not exist".
"Clearly this is done with an intention to appease a particular section. It is part of the Congress vote bank politics. It is part of the Congress strategy before elections," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.

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