Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, sidestepped a question on Tuesday on whether he would apologise for the 2002 riots in his Gujarat. On the Congress' demand for an apology, Mr Modi told a news channel "let them account for their own sins first." (Elections: Coverage)
Mr Modi has expressed regret for the communal violence 12 years ago in Gujarat, the state he has ruled since 2001, but has never apologised. In the middle of a national election that many believe will go in his favour, the 63-year-old maintained that stand.
"Nobody from the Congress came to meet me or discuss this issue with me," he said in an interview to the TV9 Maharashtra channel, when asked about demands for his apology. "Congress should account for their own sins first before raising a finger at someone else." (Watch Video)
Mr Modi did not specify, but his BJP has always countered allegations on the 2002 Gujarat riots with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Congress's rivals allege that it has shielded its leaders accused of leading mobs that targeted Sikhs. Recently, Rahul Gandhi said in an interview, "the difference between the 1984 riots and the riots in Gujarat was that in 1984, the government was trying to stop the riots." (Rahul Gandhi accuses Narendra Modi of 'abetting' Gujarat riots)
Mr Modi's critics accuse him of not doing enough to check the riots that left 1,000 dead, mostly Muslims. A Supreme Court appointed probe panel found no evidence of his complicity as alleged.
In December last year, a day after a Gujarat court upheld that assessment and ruled that there is no evidence that he conspired to fan the violence, Mr Modi wrote in a blog that he was "shaken to the core" by the riots, but his government acted "more swiftly and decisively to the violence than ever before in any previous riot in the country." (Was shaken to the core by 2002 riots, blogs Narendra Modi)