Aakar Patel, Asian Age
A court has convicted his minister for women and child welfare Maya Kodnani to 28 years for rioting. She is currently in jail serving this sentence.
She supervised the murder of 98 Gujaratis in Ahmedabad, including three dozen children and women. The victims of the violence have specifically said after her conviction that they do not want her to be hanged, and that the 28 year sentence is enough.
However, the special investigating team that gathered evidence against the minister recommended to the state government that it should seek Kodnani’s hanging.
Last month, for some reason of its own, the state government first accepted that Kodnani would be hanged. And on May 14, Mr Modi decided this was a mistake and took back the state government’s recommendation of the death penalty. It was reported that the government is relooking at the matter, but what is clear is that a decision earlier taken is now again being thought over.
So what does Mr Modi want?
The fact is that Mr Modi has not even accepted Kodnani’s guilt, leave alone wanting the quantum of her punishment to be increased. When asked by reporters to comment, he says he cannot because the matter is subjudice (because Kodnani has appealed her conviction) though the truth is that he is wrong, since the case has already been adjudicated.
In fact, quite shamefully, he has made no statement on her at all. This is despite the fact that he gave her a ticket and then made her a minister while very serious allegations confronted her.
There is enormous pressure on the government in this matter from these quarters. They are aghast that a Hindu minister should be held accountable.
The other aspect is that Mr Modi himself feels this way. He is, after all, a lifetime Sangh man. And believes, in my opinion wrongly, that the rest of the country is going to see it from his perspective.
The media will actually not let go of this Kodnani issue and only negatives can accrue to Mr Modi from this mistake. In an earlier column I noted that Mr Modi has been able to successfully keep separate his mismanagement of the riots from his agenda of development. He has done this well and because of it can deflect the negative attention that his antiMuslim and communal views bring. Such mistakes as he is making in the Kodnani issue bring his nasty side to the fore.
He will pay a price politically every time he fumbles on this.
The second person that Mr Modi thinks should not be punished is the thuggish Babu Bajrangi. From the Patel caste that is the BJP’s votebank and which dominates Gujarat’s Cabinet, Bajrangi is a man Mr Modi doesn’t want to alienate.
So keen is Mr Modi to appease the Patels that four out of nine ministers in his previous Cabinet and three out of seven in the current one are Patels.
Bajrangi became famous for forcibly undoing the marriages of Muslim boys with Hindu girls. He actively participated in the riots and was also convicted along with Kodnani. He represents the worst sort of Hindutva -crude, vulgar and violent -and it is a shame that even such people are being given a free pass by Mr Modi.
As I have said, the victims have specifically said they do not want the death penalty. This game is one that Mr Modi is playing against nobody in particular, and it is one that will damage him.
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