|Date: 18 Mar 2005|
Source: Times of India
Author: Kingshuk Nag
AHMEDABAD: For once, Narendra Modi's fabled magic touch seems to be failing him. In the past, with his unique brand of rabble-rousing, he could instantly get Gujarat's urban middle class to buy his line of thinking. But this time seems different.
Even as the BJP dissident camp and the NGO circuit are in celebratory mode wearing an "I said so" attitude, more and more common people are refusing to accept that the US move is an affront to India and Gujarat. Whilst most people on Friday were indifferent to the matter, some actually wondered whether the socalled "Gujarat ka sher" had become a liability for the state.
"If he can't even manage a visa for himself to the US, what good can he be to 5 crore Gujaratis?" asks Aasish Patel, a businessman who voted for the BJP in the last elections.
"In fact, he has become an embarrassment for all Gujaratis. We have a chief who has to be rapped by the most powerful nation in the world; what a shame," Patel, who has got relatives in the US, adds.
"We are living in an interdependent world. Modi can't think that he will do anything in his backyard and nobody will ask him what he was doing," says the chief executive officer (CEO) of a top Gujarat company, which is staunchly pro-Modi, at least in public posturing.
This CEO, one of whose company representatives was to accompany Modi on his now cancelled US trip, says: "Thank God, the trip has been cancelled. It is not out of love that our man is accompanying Modi on his jaunts."
But there are some who have fallen for the Modi bait. "You may not agree with Modi's policies but have to accept that rejection of visa to an elected representative of Gujarat is an insult to the state.After all, he is not a common man," says Girish Dani, a businessman-cum-politician.
However,well-known riot victim JS Bandukwala said: "Modi and his men are spreading falsehood by trying to project his visa rejection as a national issue. I must announce that I am one of the 5 crore Gujaratis who opposed his visa to the US. So he can't say this is an international conspiracy!" In similar vein, Congress's bestknown face in Gujarat, Shankersinh Vaghela said: "A criminal is in the CM's chair. The US administration must have had good reasons for rejecting his visa." NGOs operating in Gujarat, which are fuming because on Friday Modi labelled them "terrorist-sponsored", could not agree more with Vaghela.
Though joyous, BJP dissidents felt that they would have to hold on for around 10 days before firing the next salvo. "Our fight has now reached a decisive round. We do not want Modi to convert the visa rejection into an opportunity.We will let the dust settle and then go on," said a dissident leader. "Modi has to go and within weeks, come what may," the leader added with an air of finality.