Rabble rouser Modi mellows down?

July 28th, 2008 - 6:10 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi

Ahmedabad, July 28 (IANS) Known for his fiery speeches and aggressive posturing, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has surprised even his detractors with his unusual restraint following the serial blasts that killed 50 people here. It was a very different Modi who emerged after a late Saturday night meeting with top police officers soon after the city was ripped apart by 21 synchronised bombings.

While his critics would have expected him to blame the blasts on the Congress-led government’s alleged soft stance on terrorism and enemies from across the border, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister appeared stoic.

Speaking in measured tones, he appealed for calm and asked people to cooperate with the investigation. Addressing waiting journalists, Modi termed the blasts as an attack on the nation and a conspiracy against “Mahatma Gandhi’s land” and urged people to answer terrorists by only quickening the pace of economic progress.

His posture was in stark contrast with what he had said only 24 hours earlier at a public rally in Jetpur near Rajkot. He had come down heavily on the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for the controversy over land transfer to the Amarnath shrine in Jammu and Kashmir.

He even said that the government’s alleged mishandling of the land transfer issue was responsible for the absence of rains in the state as “god was so upset about it”.

Modi watchers are surprised and are asking if this represented an image makeover.

No, said Gaurang Jani, a noted Ahmedabad-based sociologist.

His countenance and actions are part of the BJP’s strategy for the forthcoming parliamentary polls.

“The focus of the party according to this strategy will be on progress and development, since after the (India-US) nuclear deal issue the party has been marginalized. In this situation, harbouring on hardline Hindutva is not going to help.

“Moreover, Modi is used to such switchovers. The current posture of being calm and focusing on development is transitory. You will see Modi swinging back to what he really is in about two weeks,” Jani said.

Arjun Modhwadia of the Congress, a former leader of the opposition in the assembly, said Modi appeared calm because he had been left dumbfounded by the perpetrators of blasts.

“Modi had challenged troublemakers of dire consequences if they tried to enter Gujarat and carry out their plans. They have answered his challenge. What can he say now?” Modhwadia asked.

BJP national spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told IANS: “I think those who have a wrong perception of him and those who have been jaundiced about him will now rectify their perception.”

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