Despite the bluster, Modi walks a legal tightrope

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Narendra Modi
Photo: Shailendra Pandey

NARENDRA MODI’S pledge to fast for three days was timed to perfection to go with the US Congress report on his prime ministerial chances. One might even believe he has conquered all odds. However, that could be attributed to his PR machinery that has been working day and night to colour the Supreme Court verdict on the Special Investigation Team (SIT) report as a clean chit. Yet, party insiders in Gujarat insist that behind the bluster and bravado, the man remains as worried as before. As amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran has said, while the Supreme Court has not indicted Modi, it has not exonerated him either. The trial court will now have to consider two reports — the SIT’S and Ramachandran’s. It is believed the two differ strongly.

Modi’s plans to move to Delhi might just also be thwarted by the judgment in the Haren Pandya murder case that acquitted all 12 accused. It appears Pandya’s wife, Jagruti Pandya, has met several of the accused. Sources say she is likely to meet Union Home Minister P Chidambaram shortly. She may also file a petition in the Supreme Court seeking re-investigation of her husband’s murder, citing the Best Bakery case as a precedent. “They were against the CBI in the Sohrabuddin case but are now siding with the same CBI in my husband’s case,” she says. “When the acparquittal of the accused took place two weeks ago, they said they would not go for an appeal, then why are they so jittery suddenly?”

Then there is the Tulsi Prajapati false encounter case, which has been handed over to the CBI and petitioners are filing this week what they consider direct evidence against PC Pande, former Gujarat Police chief and a Modi favourite.

The legal cases are not all that is worrying the BJP about Modi. He has personalised the party in Gujarat to such a degree that there is fear of what may happen when he leaves. Between him and his second-incommand and protege, Anandiben Patel, they control about every significant department in the state. As and when he moves to New Delhi, it is felt, he will make Anandiben chief minister and run the state by proxy. As a relatively marginalised Gujarat minister told TEHELKA, “Right now, Modi’s caught in a mess created by himself.”

Modi also faces strong opposition from former BJP general secretary Sanjay Joshi, who was forced to resign over an alleged sex CD scandal; Joshi and Modi are rivals from their RSS days. Joshi has used his Sangh connections to win support for Sushma Swaraj. This has led to friction between Modi and his confidant Arun Jaitley on the one hand, and Swaraj on the other.

Modi will be an important poll manager for the 2014 election, but nothing more. “He will be given a significant responsibility during the election and will be a star campaigner,” says an RSS source, “but his chances of running as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate are very bleak. But yes, the party will have to let him have an important say in the choice of the prime ministerial candidate. And that is where the real tussle will start.”

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