Ruling BJP in Gujarat has raked up quite a controversy by fielding Naroda Patiya massacre case convict’s daughter Payal Kukrani from the Naroda seat in the forthcoming Assembly elections. Now NDTV has found out that the life-term convict, Manoj Kukrani, is helping his daughter manage her election campaign. Manoj was out on temporary bail multiple times until 2016, when he got regular bail.
Earlier, BJP found itself in the eye of a storm by fielding Chandrasinh Raulji from the Godhra constituency. Raulji had referred to the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case as “Sanskari Brahmins” and was part of a Gujarat government committee that had granted remission to the convicts serving life terms.
Payal, an anaesthetist by profession with no political experience, has replaced Balram Thawani, the sitting BJP MLA from Naroda, as the party’s candidate. Opposition parties allege that this is further proof that she was picked by the BJP purely to reward riot convicts.
Manoj was warmly greeted by Mr Thawani and BJP party workers during campaigning.
There was no response from the BJP when NDTV reached out for comments.
Many have found it shocking that BJP has fielded Payal from the very same constituency where the Naroda Patiya massacre took place. Her father was one of 32 people convicted in 2012 on charges of being part of a mob that killed 97 people in Naroda during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
According to his neighbours, Manoj has mostly been out of jail on interim bail ever since his conviction.
When asked about her father’s role in her campaign, Payal said her family has challenged his father’s conviction in court.
“My father has been an experienced politician. I don’t want to comment on my father’s conviction because we have appealed against it in the Supreme Court. We’re still fighting it, but all I can tell you is that my father, mother and all BJP leaders are helping me in my election campaign and we will win on the issue of development,” Payal said.
Other family members also said Manoj didn’t do anything wrong. Manoj’s brother, Dr Puroshottam Harvani, said: “Manoj got convicted for no fault of his. He was just there. He didn’t do anything wrong. His name was dragged into it, that’s why he’s suffering.”
Referring to the Naroda Patya massacre, he added: “Public doesn’t care about the age-old incident; public cares about Modi ji and his development.”
Taking a swipe at the BJP over its choice of candidate, Omprakash, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Naroda, said: “BJP must have thought that Manoj Kukrani had contributed for the party by instigating the Naroda Patiya massacre and he offered a big sacrifice by going to jail for it. So, a reward must be given to him. That’s why his wife is a BJP corporator and his daughter Payal, who has never been in politics, is now a candidate for MLA.”
In 2018, Gujarat High Court upheld the conviction of 12 persons, including Manoj Kukrani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case.
Manoj appealed against the high Court order in the Supreme Court. His appeal trial is still pending, owing to which, he continues to be out on bail.