The Congress may not regard Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's appearance before the Special Investigation Team probing the 2002 riots as anything extraordinary, but the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership stood strongly behind him, hailing this as a political victory and one deserving the highest commendation on Saturday.
As many as three BJP spokespersons saluted Modi's much-awaited deposition before the Supreme Court-appointed SIT.
"By appearing before the SIT, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has demolished all mischievous speculations and scored a political victory. The BJP has great faith in the chief minister of Gujarat. This graceful action vindicates the BJP stand that the chief minister of Gujarat has the highest respect for law of the land," party spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.
"The dignified action deserves the highest commendation and millions of BJP workers repose highest faith in his leadership," he added.
Another BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar blamed the media for speculating on Modi's non-appearance before the SIT.
"It was the media that created an impression that he (Modi) was not keen on appearing before the SIT. Modi respects the judiciary. He abides by the law as also the institutions set up by the Supreme Court," Javadekar said.
Newly appointed spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman denied suggestions that Modi's appearance before the probe panel was an embarrassment for the party.
"I don't think it is any embarrassment to the party. The chief minister had said in the Gujarat assembly and also in his public letter last week that nobody was above law, including the chief minister," she said.
Sitharaman also pointed out that no first information report was registered against the Gujarat chief minister.
However, the Congress was not impressed with Modi's appearance and maintained that he should be brought to justice.
"In public perception, Modi has been held guilty. I don't think he has done anything extraordinary by appearing before the Special Investigation Team probing the Gujarat riots. He should be brought to justice," Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said.
Taking on the Congress, the BJP accused the ruling party of making "suggestive" statements on the Modi issue as it was unable to handle the opposition unity in Parliament on issues of price rise, nuclear bill and others.
"Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily reportedly said Modi should co-operate with the SIT. If this is true then he should not have said so as it is suggestive. This is totally unacceptable. Why does this suggestion have to come from him?" Sitharaman said.
The BJP leader maintained that Moily should remember the context and time while making such statements.
"The SIT was formed by the Supreme Court. We should allow the courts to function and learn to respect institutions," she said, adding Modi was "assisting" SIT in the probe and had not been summoned by it.
"The Congress does not have any plan for floor management in Parliament. It has seen a never-before unity in Opposition on matters concerning the common man like price rise, nuclear bill and Pakistan-related matters and does not know how to handle it," Sitharaman said.
She said Congress spokespersons should ask their own party leaders to follow the advise that they were giving to Modi on riots cases.
"If there is any embarrassment on the issue of accountability it should start with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots," she said.
BJP leaders have argued that while there were hardly any convictions in the 1984 riots, several people have already been convicted in the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
The main opposition also accused the media of being driven by activists pursuing the 2002 riots case.
"The media said Modi had been summoned by SIT. The fact that he appeared on a mutually agreed date would mean it was not a summon," Sitharaman said.
She accused sections of the media of getting into "activist mode" while reporting on Modi's appearance.
She cited reports of Modi missing the March 21 "summon" when no such date had been fixed for his deposition. "The media created a scene when he did not appear," she said."Is this a trial in public domain? And then queries are posed about whether he will quit. There is no question of Modi resigning," Sitharaman said.