‘Our fast was against Modi’s graft and hypocrisy’

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Gujarat Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia tells Kunal Majumder that corporates are praising Modi only because of his largesse

Arjun Modhwadia
Arjun Modhwadia

What did you and your party achieve with the counter-fast against Narendra Modi?
The BJP has tried to make a film and project Modi as a hero. The cost of the film is more than Rs 100 crore. It was to continue for 72 hours. But it lasted only 55 hours. He was compelled to end it because of widespread protests all over the state. Not only among the minorities — they are always the sufferers in Modi’s regime — but all classes of people. Even within the BJP family. The 23 children, who were given HIV-infected blood at a Junagadh government hospital, and their parents wanted to meet Modi. But they were sent back. So many other delegations — Anganwadi workers, women’s organisations, people affected by demolition within Ahmedabad — were detained as well. Modi was afraid of these protests and that’s why he opted to fast. When Mahatma Gandhi fasted, he did it on conditions — it should be the last resort, it should be for self-purification, or to awaken the inner soul of others. When sadbhavana was needed during 2002, Modi instigated the riots. When sadbhavana was needed for Haren Pandya, he was instead killed. When it was needed for Pandya’s family, he did not even console them and did not even allow an investigation. Forget whether he is guilty. He considers himself not guilty. It is the responsibility of the head of the state to protect life and property. He should say that he failed as head of state, not only to protect the minority community but also the majority community, those who died in the Godhra riots.

That’s about Modi’s fast. What did your counter-fast achieve?
Lots. Of course, Modi has managed to gain popularity in the electronic English and Hindi media. But in Gujarat, 95 percent read Gujarati newspapers. And for the first time under Modi’s rule, the Gujarati media targeted and criticised him. So it was a very successful agitation. We did it to counter Modi’s hypocrisy and corruption.

But hasn’t Modi managed to create a larger-than-life image among the middle class?
For the first time, his image among the middle class has actually been damaged. That is the achievement of our agitation. The cost of his fast has exceeded Rs 100 crore. The hall where he fasted was just like Vigyan Bhavan. No prayer, no spirituality. The only thing that happened was sycophancy.

Several Muslims attended the fast. Why hasn’t the Congress been able to bring the minority community under its fold?
Minorities are and were the most targeted and vulnerable group because of the riots. Here, the Muslims are not like in other states. They have been doing business for a long time. They are educated. They came to the fast because the DSP or the Collector told them to. And some, who have business interests or hold government jobs, had to come. People who needed favours came. If 10,000 people visited the hall, it doesn’t mean that the minorities are supporting him. They went there and have come here (Vaghela’s fast) as well. They don’t want to fight, so they just listen.

Corporates are heaping praise on Modi and say that he is a possible prime ministerial candidate.
Now corporate houses are also being exposed. Modi’s biggest enemy is the RTI Act. Through RTI, you can know Modi’s real enemies. It has been revealed through RTI that sops worth Rs 33,000 crore have been given to the Tatas. Without taking a single penny, land was transferred initially. Then the government asked the Tatas to pay back the money in instalments. The case is similar for Adani, DLF and other companies. Hundreds of acres were given at throwaway prices. So they will obviously praise him.

Kunal Majumder is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka. 
kunal@tehelka.com

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