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BJP keeps up Hindutva tempo

BATTLEFIELD GUJARAT

Nistula Hebbar  |  Ahmedabad 

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today continued to harp on his pet theme of Hindutva, a day after he almost justified the staged killing of Sohrabbudin, a suspected terrorist, in 2005.
"The Congress is defaming Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel by calling Hindus of Gujarat as terrorists," he told an election meeting at Godhra, the town where an attack on the Sabarmati Express train on February 27, 2002, had led to worst-ever communal riots in the state.
Modi was referring to Congress leader Digvijay Singh's statement here on Sunday that there was Hindu extremism in Gujarat. He also criticised the Congress' stand in the case of Afzal Guru, sentenced to death in the 2001 Parliament attack case.
The Congress, which had decided to steer clear of communal issues "" Modi's strength "" had been counting its blessings that the chief minister had decided to focus on development. It is now realising it spoke too soon.
"Just as Amitabh Bachchan's 'Silsila', in which he played a romantic hero after playing the angry young man for years, flopped, Modi will also have to play to his strengths, but only towards the end of the campaign," said a senior BJP leader deputed to Gujarat.
"Development and a positive campaign can never have the full impact as there are always big sections of the population which feel they have been deprived. Just look at what happened to the India Shining campaign in 2004," said the leader.
Meanwhile, the Congress is trying to put up a brave front, saying the success of party president Sonia Gandhi's rallies in Saurashtra and Kutchh is behind the change in Modi's tone.
The Congress will probably raise the issue of the murder of BJP minister Haren Pandya. "After all, a murder is murder, whether it is Sohrabuddin or Pandya," said a senior Congress leader.
Pandya's father has now decided to approach the high court in the case.
"It seems the success of Sonia Gandhi's rallies coupled with the advertisement issued by the Sardar Patel Utkarsh Samiti quoting former chief minister and rebel Keshubhai Patel's statements has rattled the chief minister, who has chosen to resort to the communal card," said a senior BJP functionary. Modi had earlier hinted that development would be his main poll plank.
A party insider told Business Standard the BJP was planning to come up with a campaign focused on the Saurashtra region, with pictures of Modi, Patel and other national leaders.
The rebels-run committee got a wind of it and preempted the move by releasing the advertisement with Keshubhai's statements criticising the Modi government.

First Published: Thu, December 06 2007. 00:00 IST
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