Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi ended his three-day “Sadbhavana mission” fast on Monday evening with the claim that never for a day during his 10-year regime had he and his government ever discriminated between the majorities and minorities.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Modi said he had taken up the exercise only to showcase to the country and the world the “secret” behind Gujarat's rapid progress during the last decade, which, he said, was “Jan Bhagidari,” involving the people in the development process.
Mr. Modi began the day with a prayer meeting to condole earthquake victims in the northeast. A government spokesman said that as soon as the Chief Minister heard the news of the quake on Sunday, he alerted the State Disaster Management Authority to remain prepared, if required, to assist the affected States in relief operations. Gujarat had also promised all help to the victims.
Without naming Congress leaders, who observed a parallel counter-fast outside the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram, about 5 km from the venue where Mr. Modi was fasting, the Chief Minister said he had been repeatedly asked about the need for his “Sadbhavana mission” at this stage when the State was already witnessing peace and unity among all. “My only intention was to show the world the secret behind Gujarat's progress — people's participation in each of the development programme, not of one community or caste, but each of the six crore Gujaratis in the State.”
He said people had “misread” his “Sadbhavana Mission” thinking that he was trying to woo the minorities. Gesturing at the heads of various religions and sects on the dais, including a large number of Muslims, Mr. Modi said the congregation was the outcome of the practice he was following for the last 10 years to instil a sense of confidence among all and involving them in the developmental process.
Mr. Modi recalled an incident when members of Justice Sachar Committee called on him. They asked him what his government was doing for minorities. He replied that his government did nothing for the minorities. The committee members were taken aback. “Then I told them, also note that my government also does nothing for the majorities. Whatever my government does is for six-crore Gujaratis, I have never learnt to divide my people into majorities and minorities,” Mr. Modi said.
The Chief Minister said that when he knocked at the doors of Muslims cajoling them to send their daughters to schools, or when officials educated farmers, whether they belonged to Muslim or other communities, on implementing modern agricultural techniques, “all could see that my government never discriminated between different communities. If such a large gathering of Muslims are occupying the dais here, it is because in 10 years every one has realised that all of them have been treated equally and that is the real strength of Gujarat,” he said.
While Mr. Modi broke his fast at 6 p.m. on Monday, accepting a glass of juice offered by heads of all religions and sects, who had specially gathered for the occasion, the Congress leaders, including the former Chief Minister, Shankarsinh Waghela, and State party president Arjun Modhvadia, decided to continue their fast till Tuesday morning. Senior BJP leaders and NDA partners, including Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj; the former BJP president, M. Venkaiah Naidu; Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, actor and BJP MP Hema Malini, and many others called on Mr. Modi.