Plays to gallery by going on feel- good fast and appeals to political parties to end vote- bank politics, also says Gujarat will set example as ainclusive growth

R K MISRA Ahmedabad

With religious heads chanting bles

sings and his party national top brass in attendance, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi began his three- day fast for goodwill and amity with a run down of his ten- year long reign which had secured for Gujarat and India a front ranking position in the comity of nations. ” Country after country is taking notice of the frenetic pace of development in the state”, he added.

Meant to be a sombre occasion to put the calamitious past behind and to rededicate oneself for renewed peace and amity, the mood turned political as leader after leader used the occasion for political grandstanding and lashing out at their opponents. ” For 60 years the country has witnessed divisive tendencies of caste and communities being fanned to fulfill political and power objectives but Gujarat has turned the tide to usher in an era of unparalleled development in Gujarat”, Modi stated adding that he wanted the country to follow the Gujarat . A vocal section of Muslims present at the venue kept raising chants of Narendrabhai aap age badho, hum tumhare saath hai ( Narendrabhai you move forward, we are with you.”) Modi who began his fast on his 62nd birthday, first went to call on his mother to seek her blessings before coming to the centrally airconditioned venue – Gujarat university international convention centre – which will be his home for the next three days. A long lineup of BJP national top brass led by veteran leader L K Advani, and including among others Arun Jaitley, Kalraj Mishra, Rajnath Singh and Ravi Shanker Prasad, besides Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal were present on the dais as were two minister of the Tamil Nadu government present as special emissaries of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

National BJP president Nitin Gadkaris absence was ascribed to health reasons but he has sent his good wishes, it was pointed out. There was no representative of the BJP ally JD- U at the function. An hour earlier, former Union minister and Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela besides state party chief Arjun Modvadia, and leader of the opposition Shaktisinh Gohil began their counter fast against the corrupt and wasteful practices of the Narendra Modi led government on the pavement outside the Sabarmati ashram this morning. As against the high- profile and state organised stellar function at Modis fast, the Congress function remained a low key affair shorn of official UPA government patronage. ” We do not believe in any exercise which involves wasteful use of public money”, said Vaghela.

While Modis fast venue was surrounded by cast- iron rings of concentric security which involved multi- metal detector checks and numerous manual friskings before being able to enter the venue, the Congress venue of the fast had hardly any security worth the name as visitors mingled freely with the fasting leaders regulated only by Seva Dal volunteers.

While Modi spoke of how the country needs to emulate Gujarat which is now the cynosure of international eyes, Vaghela sought to focus on local and regional issues of corruption and malgovernance concerning the Modi government.

” I have never celebrated my birthday. In fact this is the only day of the year I donalt39alt39 t meet anyone, I donalt39alt39 t talk to anyone. The general convenience of a weekend is the guiding factor for this fast, not my birthday”, the chief minister sought to clarify. ” It is aimed at transforming himself into Mahatma Modi to satiate his national political ambitions”, counters Vaghela adding how else do you justify a fast for peace when absolute peace already prevails in the state”. ” When Akshardham was attacked, the whole country believed that Gujarat will be divided. But the state set a shining example of peace, harmony in the period thereafter,”

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