After the 'Vanzara' letter-bomb, there is another 'explosive' storm building up for the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat with Babu Bajrangi, who was sentenced to imprisonment for life in the 2002 Naroda-Patiya communal carnage, making defiant noises against the move to seek death penalty for him and four others while sparing former minister Maya Kodnani.
After mounting pressure from the higher echelons of the Sangh Parivar set up has led to the Modi government going soft on former minister of state for child welfare, Maya Kodnani while allowing the others of the hindutva brigade to be "sacrificed" in the Naroda Patiya murder case of 2002 in which 96 people lost their lives, there is turmoil within the ranks with the accused as well as the sympathizers split over the move.
The Gujarat Government has decided not to let the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) seek death penalty for Kodnani while it has given the go-ahead for the five others. Babu Bajrangi is a one time Bajrang Dal front ranker.
In the verdict delivered by the special court judge Jyotsna Yagnik last year, life imprisonment had been ordered for all the 31 convicts - 28 years in jail to Kodnani, entire life for Babu Bajrangi, 31 years to seven others and 24 years to the rest.
However, earlier this year the state government decided to move the higher court to seek death for Kodnani and Bajrangi along with eight others and appointed three lawyers for this purpose in April.
However, the decision came under trenchant criticism from the hindutva set up. Though Modi had no love lost for Kodnani and her name had not even figured in his list of probables for the BJP ticket in the 2007 vidhan sabha elections, he had relented under pressure from party veteran and Gandhinagar MP L.K. Advani.
Highly placed sources aver that Kodnani has enjoyed strong backing in the RSS hierarchy all along. But Modi guided by political objectives and in his ‘sadbhavana’ mode after his national ambitions surfaced, hoped to fulfil two objectives with one move and therefore seemed inclined to give in to the SIT plea for appealing against the special court verdict and seeking enhanced sentence, which in this case was the death penalty. With the RSS pressing initially for Modi’s appointment as campaign committee chief of the BJP for the 2014 elections and subsequently naming him as the man for the top job, he is reported to have acquiesced to the demand to spare Kodnani but has run foul of the others.
Bajrangi who was brought to the court from the Sabarmati jail in connection with the hearing of the Naroda gam case in which he and Kodnani are being tried for the killing of 11 people in the post-Godhra riots on February 28,2002 told mediapersons, "I have a lot to reveal but this is not the proper time to speak”. He was known to be unhappy over the decision to seek death penalty for him and the others while sparing Kodnani who was termed as the kingpin in the judgment last year. Bajrangi did not elaborate, chosing to get into the van that was waiting to take him back to jail from the court.
In the case of Kodnani, the Gujarat Advocate General (AG) Kamal Trivedi has opined against the SIT appealing for enhanced punishment for the former minister as there was "no direct evidence" against her. The doctor-politician even managed a berth in the Gujarat Ministry in 2007 despite her alleged role in the riots. Seen exhorting the killers of Naroda Patiya she had however broken down in the court and even blamed a political conspiracy for her predicament.
Special Judge Jyotsna Yagnik had stopped only short of pronouncing death penalty for the perpetrators of one of the worst massacres of 2002 Gujarat riot stating that while death penalty may have been desirable, the global trend against the same in recent years cannot be overlooked. The court had further believed that "use of death undermines human dignity".
Bajrangi’s veiled statement gets added importance after DIG D.G. Vanzara, who is in jail as an accused in a number of alleged fake encounters by the police in Gujarat, sent in his resignation with a bombshell of a letter that charged former minister of state for Home, Amit Shah with crimes of commission and omission and took the chief minister to task for blindly supporting him in his misadventures.