"Congress and its sponsored NGOs are trying to malign him"

Hours after an Ahmedabad court rejected a protest petition filed against the clean chit given to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots, the Bharatiya Janata Party hailed the verdict and said its prime ministerial candidate now goes into the 2014 campaign “untainted by propaganda.”

The party dismissed the protest petition as an attempt to “malign” Mr. Modi and pinned the blame on the Congress and its “sponsored NGOs.” “After the Congress found it is unable to fight Mr. Modi politically, it used various means including the Central Bureau of Investigation and websites and falsehood in court against him, but failed,” senior party leader Arun Jaitley told mediapersons here.

Mr. Modi’s “exoneration” came after a prolonged investigation. “There were pre-emptive and punitive arrests, cases were filed, people were punished, there were investigations by the SIT, there was a Supreme Court-monitored probe, an amicus curiae, then the SIT’s report to the magistrate, Mr. Modi himself was interrogated for over nine hours,” he said.

As enthusiastic party workers burst crackers at the BJP headquarters here, the senior leadership maintained that Mr. Modi “emerged stronger” from the “adversity.”

“We feel strongly for the victims of all riots, but strong sentiments are no reason why falsehood should substitute truth,” he said.

Citing statistics of those who were arrested and prosecuted for their involvement in the 2002 riots, Mr. Jaitley said: “There were 1,00,488 preventive and punitive arrests, this is more than the number of persons arrested in any other [case of] caste or religious tension in India. More people died in police firing during disturbances than in any other riot, which negates the allegation of police connivance. 4,272 cases were registered, 1,168 of these cases have been decided and hundreds of accused have been convicted. Most of these actions have been taken by the Gujarat Police. For the first time in 2006 i.e. four years after the riots, it was alleged that the Gujarat Police was conspiring with the accused.”

Hitting out at the NGOs that were part of the protest petition, Mr. Jaitley said they were party to the Congress’s design against Mr. Modi. “All these NGOs and websites focus only on Gujarat. Cases of serious corruption including the 2G, the coal block and the Commonwealth Games scams have been ignored by them. The conspiracy of falsehood to implicate the Chief Minister [Modi] in an offence stands exposed,” Mr. Jaitley said.

He said the Congress tried to frame Mr. Modi in several “false and motivated cases” but failed — “there have been the alleged snoop-gate, the Sohrabuddin case, the 2002 riots case and the Ishrat Jahan case,” he said.

Party chief Rajnath Singh also welcomed the verdict.

Unsatisfactory: Karat

Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, however, said the decision of the metropolitan court was not satisfactory. This was just one stage of the judicial process and should be appealed against, he said.

The former CPI general secretary, A.B. Bardhan, said the verdict was not the last word. “There is bound to be an appeal. Mr. Modi is not yet in the clear.”

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