Gandhinagar: Chief Minister Narendra Modi`s three-day `sadbhavana` fast beginning in Ahmedabad Saturday is poised to be a grand affair with the state government making all arrangements, including five-tier security, for the event that will see the BJP top brass attending. AIADMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has extended her support by sending two of her ministers.
Meanwhile, Modi, in a late evening statement, expressed confidence that his mission would lend further strength to the nation`s unity in diversity.
An official press release, issued on the eve of his three-day fast, stated that the chief minister has said that "India and Gujarat have realized that casteism and communal fanaticism does not serve anybody. Gujarat has risen over the distortions in society and national life to march on to the path of progress, peace, unity, harmony and brotherhood."
"Gujarat had the worst earthquake in 2001 and was engulfed in communal riots in 2002. We can imagine that those were the worst days," Modi said in a letter to the people of the country this evening.
"Gujarat has come out of those dark days and is progressing on the path of development. The later atmosphere of peace, unity, harmony and brotherhood has fuelled the growth of Gujarat.
"In the history of the country, it has been witnessed that poison of casteism and communal frenzy have never helped anybody. Gujarat has understood this. Rising above such perversions of social and national life, Gujarat has chosen the road of progress," Modi said.
"My heartfelt thanks to those who have shown my true mistakes in the last ten years when I have been the Chief Minister."
He sought everybody`s blessings "on this occasion to serve the people better".
A galaxy of BJP leaders will be present on the first day of Modi`s fast. Those arriving include senior party leader L.K. Advani, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Premkumar Dhumal, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, BJP national vice-presidents Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Kalraj Mishra, general secretaries Vijay Goel, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Rajiv Pratap Rudi and Mahila Morcha President and MP Smriti Irani among others.
Jayalalithaa has sent her greetings for the success of the mission, while her cabinet colleague Mantriyan and AIDMK MP Thambidurai will be present on the occasion. According to reports, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will also be present Saturday.
Modi had attended the swearing-in ceremony of Jayalalithaa as chief minister this May as a special invitee.
Modi`s bete noire Shankersinh Vaghela of the Congress is also going on a three-day fast to counter him, outside Mahatma Gandhi`s Sabarmati Ashram here.
Modi`s fast is part of his `mission sadbhavana` after what his party claims is the clean chit given by the Supreme Court to him in the charges of conspiracy preferred by Zakia Jaffri, widow of late Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri who perished among the 69 people in the massacre at Gulberg Housing Society in Ahmedabad in the communal rioting that followed the 2002 Godhra train carnage. "It (the fast) is for communal and social harmony," Modi stated announcing his decision.
Meanwhile, the pastoralists - the Maldhari Ekta Samiti - which has already served an ultimatum to the Modi government will fast to protest cow slaughter. Praful Vaghela, whose son and nephew, students of the Asaram Gurukul, were found mysteriously killed leading to large scale protests and violence in Ahmedabad in 2008, will also be on fast, as will be members of the Gandhi sena out to counter the Modi fast.
Jagrutiben Pandya, wife of slain BJP leader Haren Pandya, said Friday that Chief Minister Narendra Modi has shown no sadbhavana (goodwill) towards Haren`s family. "I will garland Haren`s statue in Ahmedabad at 11.30 a.m. and will then go to the chief minister to remind him," she added.
Mallika Sarabhai, daughter of well-known space scientist late Vikram Sarabhai who is an activist in her own right, has announced that she will be feeding slum children on all the three days to voice her disgust at Modi`s "gimmickry".
Though initially the Gujarat chief minister was supposed to fast at the Mahatma mandir in the state capital here, the venue was changed to the Gujarat University`s plush convention hall in Ahmedabad.
A five-tier security ring is being put in place for the chief minister and the venue of the fast has been ringed with cops and turned into a fortress. Ahmedabad is already reeling under a terrorist threat and the fast is expected to lead to the weaning away of a lot of policemen for VVIP security duty, said a top police officer.
However, DGP Chittranjan Singh said that since the chief minister has Z-plus security, 36 NSG commandoes will be on round-the-clock duty. According to one estimate, about 1,000 policemen, both in uniform as well as in plain clothes, are being deployed in and around the chief minister`s fast venue.
If Modi`s fast is largely seen as a political move being undertaken with the twin political objectives of the 2012 Vidhan Sabha elections in Gujarat and the 2014 general elections in his sights, the Congress led by Vaghela, who has recently been made the chairman of the Gujarat Congress election committee, has joined battle with the same objective in mind.
With PTI & IANS inputs