New Delhi: Gujarat Chief minister Narendra Modi's use of a puppy analogy while referring to the deaths in his state in the 2002 riots have triggered a political storm, but the BJP says he is being misinterpreted.
In an interview to the Reuters news agency, Modi said: "Even If I am in the back seat of a car and a puppy comes under the wheels, isn't it painful? It is. Whether I am a chief minister or not, I am a human being - I will be sad if something bad happens anywhere."
"Another thing, any person if we are driving a car, we are a driver, and someone else is driving a car and we're sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will 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," Modi said.
Gujarat chief minister said that he had done "absolutely the right thing" during the 2002 riots and described himself as a "Hindu nationalist". An SIT set up by the Supreme Court had given him a "thoroughly clean chit", he said.
Modi came under sharp attack from the Congress, Samajwadi Party, CPM, CPI and JD(U) for his remarks.
Answering a question about being regarded as a polarizing figure, Modi cited the example of Democrats and Republicans in the US to emphasize that polarization was "democracy's basic nature".
Asked whether he believed India should have a secular leader, the chief minister said, "We do believe that. But what is the definition of secularism? For me, my secularism is, India first. I say the philosophy of my party is 'justice to all, appeasement of none'. This is our secularism."
To a question about criticism that he was an authoritarian, he said, "if you call yourself a leader, then you have to be decisive. If you are decisive, then you have the chance to be a leader. These are two sides to the same coin.
"People want him (leader) to make decisions. Only then they accept the person as a leader. That is a quality, it is not a negative. The other thing is, if someone was authoritarian, then how would he be able to run a government for so many years? Without a team effort, how can you get success?"
Queried how he would persuade minorities, including Muslims, to vote for him, Modi said he saw all voters as Indians and he would not like to divide the country.
"Hindus and Muslims, I am not in favour of dividing. I am not in favour of dividing Hindus and Sikhs. I am not in favour of dividing Hindus and Christians. All the citizens, all the voters, are my countrymen. So my basic philosophy is, I don't address this issue like this. And this is a danger to democracy also. Religion should not be an instrument in your democratic process."
The Gujarat strongman's comment, when asked if he regretted the riots, that even if a "puppy comes under the wheel" of a car, one felt sad, drew particularly sharp condemnation with SP accusing him of comparing Muslims to dogs.
Congress and SP demanded immediate apology to the nation from him.
Slamming Modi, Congress said the remarks reflected his "perverse mindset" and were "totally against the idea of India".
"Thousands of people lost their lives in the 2002 riots and in this backdrop the analogy used by Narendra Modi needs to be strongly condemned. There is no place for such a comparison in civilized India," said Ajay Maken, AICC communications department head, in a reference to the "puppy" remark.
Samajwadi Party spokesman Kamal Farooqui said, "It is a very sad, very humiliating and very disturbing statement ... What does he (Modi) think, that Muslims are worse than even puppies? He does not have a heart for them. He should feel sorry ... He should apologize," Farooqui said.
"He (Modi) should be ashamed for using such a language," the SP leader said, adding, "the earlier he apologizes, the better it will be. Otherwise, there will be dangerous consequences." Agencies
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