Will Narendra Modi’s national ambitions be hit?

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For Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, the Naroda Patiya verdict comes at a time when crucial Assembly elections are just months away.

Mr Modi and the BJP have been selling Gujarat’s 'unprecedented growth', calling Mr Modi a 'victim' of a vilification campaign, but the Opposition has got enough ammunition to attack him as Maya Kodnani, held guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy in the riots, is considered close to the CM.

Her conviction will almost certainly dent Mr Modi’s credibility and put him on the backfoot.

The Opposition has alleged that Kodnani, accused of instigating the mob, acted at the behest of her political masters, including the CM.

After Wednesday’s verdict, internal discussions have begun in the BJP whether the national ambitions of Mr Modi, an aspirant for the prime ministership, will be affected.

Kodnani, a three-time MLA from Naroda, was inducted into the Modi Cabinet in 2007 despite allegations against her.

The BJP has dismissed the demand for Mr Modi’s resignation and tried to play down the verdict, but the leadership has started weighing its implications.

A section of the party feels the BJP’s poll prospects will be hit as for the first time a 'high-profile' leader has been convicted.

The Gujarat government was quick to distance itself from Kodnani, noting she was not a minister when the riots occurred. “An MLA is not a state government functionary,” a government spokesman pointed out to reporters.

Verdict to affect BJP in elections?

Sources disclosed that the coming Assembly polls in Gujarat are considered crucial because it is not just the Opposition but dissident camp, led by former CM Keshubhai Patel, who has opened fronts against chief minister Narendra Modi.

A section within the party is of the view that the verdict in the Naroda Patiya case of 2002 riots will affect the BJP’s poll prospects as it is for the first time that such a 'high profile' leader — Maya Kodnani — has been convicted for instigating riots.

While the saffron party was quick enough to react when the special investigation team (SIT) in the Gulberg Society case refused the plea of slain former MP Ahsan Jafri’s wife to prosecute Mr Modi, it said it will not politicise the judicial process by reacting on the Naroda Patiya verdict.

Soon after the verdict was out, the Gujarat government tried to distance itself from Kodnani saying she was not a minister when the incident occurred.

“Let me be very clear that the MLA is not a state government functionary as you are trying to make it out, secondly, Dr Maya Kodnani was not a minister when this incident took place,” Gujarat government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas said in Ahmedabad while lashing out at the Opposition for targeting Mr Modi.

While the BJP played down the verdict, law minister Salman Khurshid said the judgment enhances faith of the people in the legal system.

“For all of us, it is a matter of comfort that faith in the legal system gets enhanced and strengthened. Every time this kind of inhuman act is made accountable, people who are responsible should feel a sense of reprimand,” Mr Khurshid said.

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