Patna: A full page colour advertisement in local dailies in Bihar projecting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as being `Muslim friendly` has been questioned by the people, activists and opposition parties.
The advertisement, with a big smiling pictrure of Modi and `indisputable` facts about Muslims in Gujarat, was published in Hindi, English and Urdu dailies two days ahead of Modi`s visit to the state.
Modi is visiting Bihar for the first time after the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government came to power in the state four and a half years ago, to attend Bharatiya Janata Party`s national executive June 12 and the `Bihar Swabhiman` rally in Patna June 13.
The advertisement promienently stated that Muslims in Gujarat enjoy better education and employment opportunities, financial stability, health facilities and infrastructure.
Bihar BJP leader Sanjay Mayukh said that the facts in the advertisement were as per the Sachar Committee report. People, however, had their doubts.
"Gujarat was a developed state decades ahead of Narendra Modi coming to power. In a developed state, all sections of society are well off and enjoy cake of development. It is the same with Muslim," Pushparaj, an activist who authored a book - Nandigram Diary, told a news agency here.
"Modi should not forget what happened in 2002 in Gujarat when hundreds of Muslims butchered and he was sleeping," he added.
Aneesh Ankur, a theatre activist, said that it was natural to create suspicion in people`s minds with a full page advertisement projecting Narendra Modi as Muslim friendly.
"The ad was to project himself a `good man for Muslims` but what about Modi`s role in Gujarat riots which is being probe by the SIT," Ankur said.
"Going by the advertisement, Muslims are a happy lot in Gujarat, but I failed to understand a need for such advertisement," Chandrasekhar Rai, a businessman, said.
The ad also did not find favour in the political circles of the state.
"A full page advertisement of Gujarat government projecting Narendra Modi as messiah of Muslims in local dailies here reminded me of Gujarat riots of 2002," Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) state president Abdul Bari Siddiqui said.
Another RJD leader Ram Kirpal Yadav said that a full page advertisement in local dailies was a bid to create a pro-Narendra Modi environment in the state.
Congress leaders Ashok Ram and Ramjatan Sinha said that the ad was only meant to mislead people. "People are well aware of the real Narendra Modi," they said.
The BJP is an alliance partner of Nitish Kumar`s Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in Bihar but the chief minister has time and again publicly tried to disassociate himself from Modi for his alleged role in the Gujarat communal riots of 2002.
Nearly one-and-a-half-months ago, Kumar had said that BJP leaders Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi were not needed for campaigning for the next assembly elections in Bihar.
State JD-U president Vijay Kumar Choudhary, however, made it clear that the party had no problem with Modi`s visit to the state to attend the national executive meeting of the BJP.
"We have absolutely no problem with Modi visiting Bihar to take part in his party function," he said.
Lalan Singh, a rebel JD-U leader, said that Modi had wanted to attend Kumar`s swearing-in ceremony as chief minister in 2005 but senior JD-U leaders, including Sharad Yadav, cautioned against this as it would send a wrong signal.
Political watchers here said that Kumar`s move to project himself as a secular leader, who did not want to share the stage with Modi, was to garner support of nearly 17 percent Muslim population in Bihar.
The BJP is holding its national executive meeting in Patna which will be attended by top leaders of the party including party president Nitin Gadkari, former president L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Narendra Modi, Varun Gandhi, Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi.
The Nitish Kumar government has made Modi a state guest along with former BJP president LK Advani, during his visit here. Kumar would also host a dinner for the BJP leaders.