Ahmedabad: There was no apology and no admission of failure for the 2002 riots, but Narendra Modi began his 72-hour fast with a speech seeking to reinvent himself on the national scene before senior BJP leaders and allies.
As the face of Hindutva was crowned once more at the stage where he began his fast, Modi tried to project himself as an inclusive leader to negate the communal tag.
Surrounded by the BJP's top national leadership, the speech he made, only expressed pain and sadness for the 2002 riots.
"I have suffered in my heart for those who suffered and were victims of the 2002 riots. We acted with power and toughness to get life back in order," said Modi.
That statement was designed to create an image that can help him play a role at the national level, and even if they are uncomfortable with that ambition none in the BJP can ignore Modi. So, even LK Advani, who earlier this month renewed the debate over the BJP's prime ministerial candidature by announcing a yatra, shared the stage.
"The BJP has many candidate capable of being PM not just one crown prince," said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.
But outside the party, key NDA ally the JD(U), which has been uncomfortable with Modi, avoided the fast. But the Akali Dal was present along with the Shiv Sena.
AIADMK's Jayalithaa, though not part of the NDA, sent her representatives.
Modi's managers ensured that the religious minority was visibly represented on stage and in the midst of Modi's core electorate. Men like Haroon, a small trader from Rajkot were among those projected.
"He is working for the development of six crore people, so we are supporting Modi," said Haroon.
But with the riot cases far from over, can Modi ever exorcise the ghost of Godhra? That question will continue to be asked.
So, from Gujarati Asmita 2002 to Gujarati Ekta 2011, clearly Narendra Modi is attempting an image makeover in order to become an inclusive leader as he heading towards 2012 Gujarat elections. That image makeover is essential if he has to harbour a national ambition.