Modi gets clean chit in riots, UPA probes snooping

Tags: News

Court rejects plea against SIT report, Jafri to challenge order

An Ahmedabad court on Thursday upheld the special investigation team’s (SIT’s) clean chit to BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and rejected a petition seeking his prosecution in a 2002 riots case.

If this brought respite for Modi, in Delhi the Union cabinet set up an inquiry into the snoopgate controversy, something that the Congress will bank heavily on to embarrass Modi in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

The Ahmedabad court dismissed Zakia Jafri’s plea challenging the SIT’s clean chit to Modi in the 2002 Gulberg society massacre, in which her husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri had been burnt alive. Jafri said she would appeal against the order in a higher court within a month.

This was the last major legal hurdle for Modi in the Gujarat riots cases. Modi was quick to seize the opportunity, tweeting, “Satyamev Jayate! Truth alone triumphs.”

In Delhi, the Union cabinet coincidentally got the timing right in ordering a probe into the ‘illegal surveillance’ of a woman architect by the Modi government.

While the two developments happened at their own pace, the political tenor didn’t go unnoticed, particularly with the Lok Sabha polls round the corner. It appeared that the Congress was desperate to not just drive home the point of women’s safety under Modi, but also raise the larger issue of morality in public life since Modi is suspected to be the man behind the snooping episode.

The BJP described the Ahmedabad court verdict as a ‘moral victory’, realising that it would give a boost to Modi’s attempt to gain acceptance among a wider section of electorate, particularly the minorities.

This was something that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate tried with some success during his Sadbhavna Yatra in the run-up to the 2012 Gujarat assembly polls. The majority of the party’s Muslim candidates won the municipal elections across the state. With the court verdict now coming as a shot in the arm for the saffron party, it is all set to launch a more aggressive campaign in the minority-dominated pockets, selling the “Gujarat model of inclusive growth.”

On the other hand, an adverse finding by the commission in the snoopgate case would provide the Congress enough ammunition to tarnish Modi’s image in the run-up to the elections.

There were wide-ranging discussions in the cabinet meeting on Thursday on the timing of the probe. Sources said senior ministers like Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram were of the view that the move would benefit the Congress politically during the Lok Sabha polls.

However, the cabinet decision is open to legal scrutiny, an option the BJP has already decided to exercise. The leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, said the decision was an ‘affront’ to states, and it attacked the federal structure.

He accused the Congress of using ‘fascist’ and ‘emergency-like’ mindset in settling political scores with Modi, trying to ‘oppress’ him by initiating a probe on an issue that is already under investigation by a state-appointed panel.

“This action is legally suspect and liable to challenge. I am sure it will be legally challenged in the court. The setting up of this commission violates the federal structure of the Constitution. It is an affront to the states. I hope other chief ministers also join in the protest against this action,” Jaitley said.

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