The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded the daughter of a 2002 post-Godhra Naroda Patiya massacre case convict from the Naroda seat of Ahmedabad for the upcoming Assembly elections. Payal Kukrani (30), the daughter of Manoj Kukrani who is one of the 16 convicts in the Naroda Patiya riots case in which 97 Muslims were killed, is also among the youngest candidates fielded by the ruling party this time. She is an anesthetist.
The Gujarat High Court had in 2018 upheld the conviction of Manoj Kukrani and 15 others in the Naroda Patiya riots case. Kukrani, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, is currently out on bail.
Talking about the BJP's move to field her, Payal Kukrani said, "I am grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, state BJP president C R Paatil, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and all party workers and members. My mother is a corporator and my parents have long been associated with the BJP. I had participated in the election process in the past." She said if she wins the election, her priority would be to develop the constituency and resolve the issues faced by the local people.
Her mother Reshma Kukrani, a local BJP corporator, said that she would provide complete support to her daughter and make sure that she wins the election. The Kukrani family belongs to the Sindhi community that dominates the area. The BJP fielded Payal Kulkarni instead of giving another chance to sitting MLA Balram Thawani. Some BJP workers in the area have expressed unhappiness over her candidature as they believe that she is married to a non-Sindhi and hence is no longer a member of the community.
Former BJP minister Maya Kodnani was also one of the convicts in the Naroda Patiya riots case, but was acquitted by the high court in 2018. Kodnani had served as three-term MLA from the Naroda seat. She was arrested in 2009. She is also an accused in the Naroda Gam riots case, one of the nine major communal riots that occurred in the wake of the train burning incident at Godhra. These cases were investigated by a Special Investigation Team (SIT).
The BJP has held the Naroda Assembly seat since 1990. Kodnani became the MLA in 1998 and retained the seat in 2002 and 2007. Out of the total 61 accused in the case, the special SIT court had in August 2012 held 32 guilty, and acquitted 29 others. In its order on appeals in the case in April 2018, the high court had convicted 16 people. A mob had killed 97 people, most of them from a minority community, in the Naroda Patiya area of Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, a day after the torching of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra. In the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002, 59 'kar sevaks' were killed, triggering the worst communal riots in the history of Gujarat in which over 1,000 people, mostly belonging to the minority community, were killed.
ALSO READ | Gujarat Assembly elections 2022: Who is AAP CM face Isudan Gadhvi | Why is Kejriwal backing him