A slug-fest broke out yesterday between the Congress and the BJP over Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s controversial “Hang me if I am guilty” remark related to the 2002 riots in the state. While the Congress slammed Modi and said his remark was “highly reprehensible and irresponsible”, the BJP accused the Congress-led central government of conspiring against Modi.
Taking a dig at Modi, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid said if the Gujarat chief minister was aiming to change his image with such a remark, it would be better to change his behaviour and role instead. “I don’t think we believe in kangaroo justice. Whatever the law is in the country will prevail. The courts will decide,” he said. “If he (Modi) wants to improve his image, let him. But I feel he should change his behaviour and his role. That will be the best. Changing image will not help,” Khurshid added.
Joining the slug-fest, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said Modi had not been found guilty so far because he never allowed a case to be filed against him. “A procedure has to be followed before someone is pronounced guilty, there has to be an FIR at least. In 10 years, not even an FIR has been lodged against Modi,” he said. While Union Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily said it was for the judiciary to decide on the guilty and punish them. “I don’t know whether it (the remark) is to appease minorities. But I think it is highly reprehensible and irresponsible,” he said.
Former BJP president Rajnath Singh defended Modi saying “none of the courts have found him guilty. Even after 10 years, they have not been able to prove anything”. “This is an organised conspiracy by the central government to malign the Gujarat chief minister and the Gujarat government. They are trying to bring a bad name to a model government,” he said. The war of words between the two parties started after Modi gave an interview to an Urdu weekly saying, “Hang me if I am guilty (Main gunehgaar hoon toh mujhe phaansi par latkaa do)” in reference the Gujarat riots.
The interview, which dealt with the post-Godhra riots, the state of Muslims in Gujarat and other related issues, was conducted by Shahid Siddiqui, a former Rajya Sabha member from the Samajwadi Party. Modi has been accused of giving tacit support to the riots in which more than 1,000 Muslims were killed following the February 27, 2002 Godhra train carnage in which 57 ‘kar sewaks’ returning from Ayodhya were burnt alive.