This Article is From Feb 06, 2013

1800 students at SRCC for Narendra Modi's speech; water cannons, lathis used on protesters outside venue

New Delhi: As Narendra Modi arrived at Delhi's famous SRCC college today, the police had to use water cannons to push back about 80 students who protested against the Gujarat Chief Minister's visit. The police also had to reportedly use lathis on the protesting students.

Inside the sports complex, about 1,800 students, girls more than boys, have gathered to hear the BJP leader who predictably underscored his "pro-people good governance" in Gujarat while declaring "bad governance as the root of all problems" and stressing "a sense of despair in the country."

The Gujarat Chief Minister was picked by students of the Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) over other potential speakers in an internal poll. For Mr Modi that signals dividends in his attempts at an image makeover in the past few years - from hardline right-wing politician to suave and efficient administrator.

Even among the very young, Mr Modi evokes extreme reactions. " If you look at the Gujarat growth story, it's growing at a tremendous rate. Infrastructure growth has been impressive...He's an excellent economist, a great administrator, a man who stands by his decisions. He's not scared of the consequences," says a student, Palash.

Krishna, another student says, "I can't reconcile with the past. The fact that he was involved in, let's say, anti-secular activities. But the development he's brought about in Gujarat is rather impressive."

The protesters gathered outside SRCC say the invitation to Mr Modi overlooks the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 in which 1200 people were killed while he was in office.