Modi's "puppy" remark triggers new controversy over 2002 riots

NEW DELHI Fri Jul 12, 2013 9:19pm IST

A supporter of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds a mask of Gujarat state chief minister Narendra Modi during a celebration outside a vote counting centre in Ahmedabad December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

A supporter of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds a mask of Gujarat state chief minister Narendra Modi during a celebration outside a vote counting centre in Ahmedabad December 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Amit Dave/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Hindu nationalist leader and possible prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi triggered an uproar on Friday over a remark he made in an interview about deadly communal riots in Gujarat state in 2002.

Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and head of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's election campaign, was asked in an interview with Reuters whether he regretted the violence.

Modi compared his feelings to the occupant of a car involved in an accident.

If "someone else is driving a car and we're sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I'm a chief minister or not, I'm a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad."

(Read the interview, click here)

Modi's comment provoked widespread outrage from political opponents and dominated television news broadcasts. The furore underscored how the riots - in which at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were burned and hacked to death - still cast a long shadow over India.

The ruling Congress party, which is hoping to win a third straight term in office in the next general election, called a news conference to criticise Modi for the puppy analogy and demanded that he apologise.

Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, the most prominent Muslim in the cabinet, said he felt "very bad and sad for the country and for humanity to have somebody who thinks that he owes nothing by way of explanation, remorse and not even of some level of accountability".

The Samajwadi Party which governs Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state and home to a large percentage of the country's Muslims, said Modi should apologise as soon as possible "else the repercussions are going to be really harmful".

Modi's office said there had been a "gross distortion" of the chief minister's remark.

"In response to a question related to the unfortunate incident of 2002, Mr. Modi's response only shows a heightened sensitivity on his part where he chose an anecdote to explain the grief that a human being would experience on even the hurt of a dog," his office said in a statement.

"To talk about an incident that resulted in loss of human lives and not feel the grief is unthinkable."

ELECTION FACTOR?

Human rights groups and political rivals have long alleged that Modi, a Hindu and a dominant force in BJP, allowed or even actively encouraged the 2002 attacks. Modi has always vehemently denied the charge, and a Supreme Court inquiry found no evidence to prosecute him.

Modi has always insisted that he did all that he could to stop the violence. "Up till now, we feel that we used our full strength to set out to do the right thing," he told Reuters.

A special investigation team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate the role of Modi and others in the violence said in a 541-page report in 2012 it could find no evidence to prosecute the chief minister.

Analysts have said it is unclear how much of a factor the 2002 riots will be in the next general election, which is due by May 2014 but could be called as early as November.

Modi, praised by business leaders for his state's booming economy, is widely seen as his party's strongest candidate to become prime minister.

(Writing by Ross Colvin; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Comments (3)
vijayamohan wrote:
The controversy over Modi’s remarks seems totally uncalled for. This only indicates the critics are paranoid about Modi’s rise in Public opinion.

Jul 12, 2013 9:37am IST  --  Report as abuse
Divu wrote:
The shivering in the political circles of the ruling congress and 3rd front parties are already so clearly visible just because of presence of modi in the opposition. BTW BJP has never called modi a PM candidate it is the people of India who are wishing him to be our PM, this could be the reason why congress and alies are worried. The article says the congress party willing to win 3rd term, however anybody following Indian politics closely will easily know that congress is not even trying the 3rd term and congress has already admitted their strategy now is (for year)2020. The reaction to puppy comment is not a surprise, i would have expected the same reaction if it was a cub/calf/piglet..what do you expect ? it is his first ever interview after taking charge of elections, Modi is targeted by lower ranks (like diggi) normally even with out any trigger every single day, interview like this one is an opportunity for lower ranks to impress madam to get something in 2020 if at all.

Jul 13, 2013 9:10pm IST  --  Report as abuse
pplconnect wrote:
Media and Politicians exaggerate the things beyond proportions. In Hindu Culture every life is precious . So If Mr Modi has said the matter in Puppy context , he mean to say every life is precious … There is nothing wrong in it……….. He belives in the concept of seculrism and as on today ,,, he is the top contender for PM in india ….. People of india will surely vote him for the Prime Minister…

Jul 13, 2013 9:18pm IST  --  Report as abuse
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