New Delhi/Ahmedabad/Patna/Varanasi: Cutting across party ideologies, leaders of various political parties continued to voice their resentment over Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s controversial puppy analogy comments made during an interview given to a foreign news agency.
Apparently referring to the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002, Modi said that as an occupant of a car, he would be hurt if his vehicle even ran over a puppy.
His comment provoked widespread criticism from political opponents and has dominated television news broadcasts for the last couple of days.
The furore underscored how the riots - in which at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were burned and hacked to death - still cast a long shadow over India.
Commenting on Modi’s views, Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed said in New Delhi, “The people of Gujarat had died in the 2002 riots be they from any religion. Now if they are compared to a puppy then it is an insult to the people of Gujarat. So I feel people should be sensitive while making such statements. He (Narendra Modi) is the Chief Minister of Gujarat and he is insulting the people of his own state by his statements. This is certainly not right.”
“His ideology is of a fascist nature. The fascists are not apologetic. They believe in the arrogance of their power. We have seen many fascists like Hitler and Mussolini in this world. Nobody could last long in power. Narendra Modi will also face the same fate,” said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Tariq Anwar in Patna, Bihar.
Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma said: “In the cultural ethos of democracy, India has a multicultural system. Whoever will pollute will be thrown out by the people.”
Human rights groups and political rivals have alleged that Modi, a Hindu and a dominant force in BJP, allowed or even actively encouraged the 2002 attacks.
However, on his part, Modi has said that he has been cleared of all charges by a Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).
Modi has always insisted that he did all that he could to stop the violence. "Up till now, we feel that we used our full strength to set out to do the right thing," he told.
A special investigation team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate the role of Modi and others in the violence said in a 541-page report in 2012 it could find no evidence to prosecute the chief minister.
Analysts have said it is unclear how much of a factor the 2002 riots will be in the next general election, which is due by May 2014 but could be called as early as November.
Modi, praised by business leaders for his state’s booming economy, is widely seen as his party’s strongest candidate to become prime minister.